‘It was a time for ELSAs to come alive’: exploring experiences of the Emotional Literacy Support Assistant role in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic

Endersby, Katharine (2021) ‘It was a time for ELSAs to come alive’: exploring experiences of the Emotional Literacy Support Assistant role in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. DAppEdPsy thesis, University of Nottingham.

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The Emotional Literacy Support Assistant (ELSA) initiative is designed to develop the skills of Teaching Assistants (TAs) to improve the capacity of schools to support pupils’ social and emotional wellbeing. Existing research has suggested that the ELSA role warrants further exploration, particularly in relation to its parameters, emotional challenges, and the qualities required. Recent research has also recognised the integral role that TAs have played in sustaining school communities throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and has called for a focus on TAs’ voices and experiences. The present study, therefore, aims to address the gap highlighted in existing research by exploring experiences of the ELSA role in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a small sample of ELSAs in November 2020, a mid-point in the pandemic. Data were analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). Four superordinate themes were identified across those ELSAs sampled: stepping up, stepping out; having time and space; living through challenge, and knowing worth. The findings suggest that throughout the initial period of school closures, ELSAs went above and beyond the role to support the needs of their school communities, working intuitively and proactively to build and maintain connections with children and their families. For most ELSAs sampled, the busyness and action of this period held a tension with an increased sense of time and space in the school setting. The freedom that this afforded saw ELSAs use their skills to widen their reach to other children and staff within school, as well as to families at home. Although the themes that emerged were largely positive, it was clear that working as an ELSA in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic was also a time of personal and professional challenge. Participants appeared to react in different ways to the fears they held around the children being at home, as well as to practical worries for their own safety. The challenges faced in the role were offset, however, by the appreciation and value they felt from others, as well as the sense of reward and satisfaction they gained from the role itself.

The findings provide valuable insight to Educational Psychologists (EPs) involved in the training and supervision of ELSAs but are also relevant to other ELSAs who are working through similar experiences. Possible implications for ELSA training and supervision are raised, as well as recommendations for future research, such as further exploration of the widening scope of the ELSA role.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (DAppEdPsy)
Supervisors: Durbin, Nicholas
Atkinson, Sarah
Keywords: TAs, Teaching Assistants, psychological wellbeing, emotional literacy, ELSA project, Emotional Literacy Support Assistant initiative, Covid-19, school closures
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1024 Teaching
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1050 Educational psychology
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Science > School of Psychology
Item ID: 66174
Depositing User: Endersby, Katharine
Date Deposited: 25 Jan 2023 15:00
Last Modified: 25 Jan 2023 15:00
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/66174

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