The ELSA initiative in York started as part of the TaMHS project. York was a ‘Phase 3’ Local Authority (LA), starting in April 2010. York seconded the Senior Educational Psychologist and a maingrade Educational Psychologist for one day per week to lead and implement TaMHS. 8 schools were invited to join the TaMHS project (2 high schools, 6 primaries) and the funding was used to ‘buy’ one ELSA for each of the schools involved. The schools chose to use permanent established staff and back-fill their posts. They were offered the opportunity to send another member of staff to be trained alongside the TaMHS ELSA.

In May 2010, the 5-day ELSA programme was delivered by the two members of the Educational Psychology Service, with guest presenters from the Behaviour/Attendance Service and the Specialist Teaching Service (ASC). All 8 TaMHS schools provided 2 HLTAs to attend the training, making 16 fully trained ELSAs in total within TaMHS schools. Three staff from Danesgate Community (PRU /BESD provision) also attended. There were 19 trained ELSAs in York by May 2010.   The ELSAs remained an established network through half termly supervision for the duration of TaMHS – this was provided by the maingrade EP and the schools’ Primary Mental Health Worker. An extra day of training was put on to offer sessions on Attachment and Solution-focused conversations. Additional input was offered through CAMHS including awareness raising  sessions on:  implementing CAF, ADHD, Eating Disorders and Self-harm (in the context of mood disorders).

The project was evaluated with very positive results (report available) and a mainstreaming strategy was developed in order to ensure this excellent work wasn’t lost when the funding finished.

In April 2011, the TaMHS funding stopped but York was able to provide a smaller, but still substantial, amount of money from the Early Intervention Grant to roll out ELSA to non-TaMHS schools. This has enabled the Educational Psychology Service to continue to second the Senior EP for one day per week to establish the ELSA programme across the LA. Schools were invited to ‘host’ the training and for the first time a charge was made to cover costs (20 participants, £150 for all 5 days). The course was full within 2 weeks, indicating that demand was high. The original ELSA training course was adjusted slightly to include a half-day on Attachment and a shorter session on silver SEAL. The course ran during  the summer term 2011.

Building on this success, we have just completed an autumn term course and have set up another course for the spring term. At the moment 44 schools have ELSAs with some schools having more than one. At the end of the 2012-13 academic year there are 130 ELSAs in York. One school has 15!  Supervision has been a challenge due to capacity within a small EP team. However, with so many schools now on board, establishing supervision groups within clusters of schools will be the next step.