8 ways to keep fit while working from home

By AJ Products

Working from home means you might miss out on walking or cycling as part of your commute and gives you even more excuses not to get up from your desk. Exercise isn’t just good for your physical fitness; it can also have an impact on your mental wellbeing, so it’s important to find alternative ways to stay active. There are lots of ways to create an active work environment that keeps you moving throughout the day. Here are some simple tips from AJ Products to help you to keep fit while working from home.

  1. Go for a walk or run. Make the most of the fact that you are allowed to get outside for daily exercise and try to go out every day no matter your fitness levels. Fresh air and a change of scenery will be good for both your physical and mental health. Make sure you follow all government guidelines and stay a safe two metres away from anyone not in your household.
  2. Join in with a fitness video or online class

There are lots of workout videos available for free online as well as live online classes. One of the biggest benefits to working from home is that you can grab a quick shower after your workout and, unless you’re not on a video call, no-one will know if you wear your gym clothes to work!

  • Stand up to work

Standing at your desk is an easy and effective way to start moving more while you work. A sit-stand desk lets you sit for part of the day and then stand for part of it, making it easy for you to switch between the two. Being able to vary your position as you work can make a big difference to your overall wellbeing; standing has been shown to burn extra calories compared to sitting and helps break the dangerous cycle of too much sitting.

An exercise ball chair is a great way to combine your work with a workout. It forces you to work your core muscles to keep yourself upright and counteract the natural movement of the ball. Improve your fitness further by doing simple Pilates chair exercises.

  • Do a mini workout

Staying active can be as simple as incorporating basic exercises into your daily routine, such as sitting down and standing up ten times in a row or doing jumping jacks a few times each morning and afternoon.

  • Walk and work

Take a walk around the house at regular intervals. For example, you could make it a rule to always walk around while taking phone calls.

  • Run up and down the stairs

If you have stairs, run or walk up and down a few times a day. It’s an easy way to get extra steps in and get your heart rate up.

  • Get on your bike

If you have an exercise bike at home, take a 10 minute break from your work a few times a day to get your heart rate up. Short bursts of high-intensity activity will get your blood pumping and burn body fat.

Taking short breaks to get your body moving is not only good for your health, it can also help you focus better when you get back to work. Aerobic workouts can help improve memory, lower stress levels and give you more energy. Remember to look after your body in other ways too: eat healthily, stay hydrated and make sure you get enough sleep. 

AJ Products is a supplier of workplace furniture and interior solutions that focuses on ways to solve the problem of a sedentary workday. As a member of ukactive, an independent not-for-profit organisation that aims to promote active lifestyles, the company is committed to making workplaces healthier and more active through an innovative and ever-growing range of sit-stand furniture and by raising public awareness of the health risks of prolonged sitting. Find out more at ajproducts.co.uk.

Teachers offered safe social media platform for their class as children spend more time online at home

●      Free platform lets children learn about social media and screen use, whilst  sharing posts, pictures and comments in a safe environment 

●      Teachers can deliver interactive online safety lessons and set daily challenges and activities

  ●      Platform launches amid warnings of increased risks for children online during school closures  

A safe and educational social media platform has been launched by two parents, as children spend more time at home online amidst school closures. 

The interactive platform, Natterhub, has been created for teachers to share with their pupils and use in the classroom and at home.

Created for children aged 5 to 11, Natterhub enables teachers to create an online community for their pupils and empowers them with a complete scheme of work to develop children’s understanding of the internet. This includes online safety and media literacylessons for Years 1 to 6 that includes fun, interactive and engaging content.

As an interactive platform, Natterhub uses a ‘role-modelling’ technique, which teaches by example as children learn through imitation. It looks and feels like a real social media site but helps children learn appropriate behaviour and how to safely navigate the online world in an environment that is safe, secure, and overseen by the teacher.

Children also have the opportunity to apply the knowledge they are acquiring through the lessons as they can communicate with their peers online and share pictures, posts and comments with their class. 

Founders of Natterhub, Manjit Sareen and Caroline Allams, were planning to launch the product to be used in schools in time for the new compulsory PSHE/RSE curriculum in September. They have now made alterations to make it ideal for home-use and available for free to support teachers, parents and carers during the current school closures.

“As children are at home, they are inevitably spending more time online”, explained Manjit Sareen, Co-Founder and CEO of Natterhub and a parent of two young boys, “This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the internet offers valuable learning opportunities as well as entertainment.

“But with this, there are also increased risks for children, especially for those who do not have the necessary guidance and education as they may be vulnerable to inappropriate information or cyberbullying. Sadly, we do expect to see an increase in the number of children being targeted online during this time.”

The start-up also recently conducted a survey about the amount of time children are spending online during the school closures. When asked, out of 765 parents, a third revealed their children were spending 3-4 hours online a day, whilst 55% said their children were spending 1-2 hours on the internet. Out of everyone surveyed, 26 parents said their children were spending over 7 hours online a day.

Caroline Allams, Co-Founder and CCO of Natterhub, and a former Assistant Headteacher said: “We know that the internet is a really vital tool for everyone at the moment and a way for children to stay connected to the world and each other. However, the results of this survey do illustrate just how much time children are spending online and we need to be mindful of this. 

“We don’t want people to be afraid to use the internet, but we do want them to have a safe space to learn so that they can thrive online. It is not enough for children just to be safe, they need to know how to navigate their online lives and be aware, savvy, and sceptical about what they read.”

Schools and teachers can visit natterhub.com and sign up for a free account. They will then be guided to set up log-ins for parents and pupils. If parents would like their child’s teacher or school to sign-up they can recommend them by visiting www.natterhub.com/refer. To ensure security, teachers need to enable the hub to be active for login and pupils have a daily allowance of time to use Natterhub to avoid them spending too much time on screen. No payment details are taken at any point and the hub is open for teachers, parents and children to use at any time. 

Natterhub was the first start-up company to join TwinklHive, a business accelerator, at the end of last year.

The accelerator was created by the global publisher Twinkl and offers start-ups with a customisable cash investment, access to services and residency and mentorship to help them break into and succeed within the EdTech sector. 

By providing support, TwinklHive brings together emerging companies set to transform areas of education and make a difference to the lives of teachers and pupils.

For more information about Natterhub, please visit natterhub.com

For more information about TwinklHive visit https://www.twinkl.co.uk/hive

COVID-19: “ITT providers and trainees are pulling out all the stops to make things work – their story must be told”

Emma Hollis, Executive Director, National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers (NASBTT)

It is just over two weeks since the government announced that schools would be closed to the majority of pupils for a prolonged period of time. Whilst media attention has inevitably, and rightly, focused on the implications for children and home-schooling, an untold story is the efforts of Initial Teacher Training (ITT) providers who have responded to confirmation that they will be able to award QTS at the end of a programme in the normal way, based on the trainee’s trajectory at the point their programme was interrupted.

In only a matter of days ITT providers have had to completely change their delivery models for current trainees as well as overhauling all processes for recruitment and interviews – and they are pulling out all the stops to make things work. I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight what they and their trainees are doing during these challenging times to ensure that we continue to provide a flow of new teachers into the profession by shining a spotlight on their hard work, which goes above and beyond the norm.

The crisis has meant that significant resources and energies have been diverted to support their current cohort of trainees through a very difficult time. Not only have they had to invent and deliver an entirely new, distance learning programme of ITT (quite literally overnight), but they are also managing the mental health and wellbeing of trainees, trying to support schools within their partnerships, and managing their own staff and their reactions to the pandemic.

Like all of us, they are also managing families and vulnerable relatives, the adjustment to the new ways we are all being asked to live our lives and massive adaptations to the way they are being asked to work and communicate. On top of the personal and professional pressures they face themselves, they are relied upon to provide additional support to the trainees, who in turn are dealing with all the same issues.

Assessment processes are also having to be reinvented at extremely short notice and there is a lot of anxiety across the sector about getting this right and making it fair. Additionally, without formal guidance yet being published on how to manage those trainees who are not on a trajectory to meet the Teachers’ Standards, providers are coming under significant pressure from those weaker trainees who are either on a cause for concern or at risk of being placed on one as they do not have answers to their (understandable) questions about what will happen to them.

Providers are also recreating their recruitment processes at extremely short notice and this is often proving to be extremely complex and time consuming. They are being innovative in how they manage this (invigilating testing via video conference facilities, for example) but all of this takes a lot of time and energy and generates significant anxiety as normal recruitment processes which ensure we get the right people in front of our children, such as observing applicants’ interactions with children, cannot be incorporated during this unusual time.

Despite all these considerable hurdles to jump during this unprecedented situation, in the past week I have been hearing of many incredible ‘on the ground’ responses from ITT providers – just a handful of which I am sharing with you here:

“One of our primary trainees has made some PE videos for YouTube and a secondary trainee has been involved in making a short animated book for young children to explain the need for isolation. More widely, in terms of our approach to dealing with school closures and how we have adapted our provision, essentially this has been lots of regular email updates, online webinars to keep in touch and continue learning, and lots of individual phone calls and emails. An amended and very flexible set of expectations keep everyone feeling a sense of purpose and identity.”

Patrick Garton, Teaching School and SCITT Director, Oxfordshire Teaching Schools Alliance

“Many of our trainees are supporting schools with online lessons/video conferencing teaching and helping the NHS volunteering. I am tracking all of this and therefore programmes for 60 trainees is very much on an individual basis. However, I have set some tasks they must all do for QTS i.e. home-school lesson planning and sequence planning for schemes of work. We are going to share the best ones for each subject for parents on our Facebook account. Central training and subject studies continue online, as we are using exam board resources to support marking and feedback. We have one meeting a week to discuss research on the Teachers’ Standards. They will record all of this in their evidence.”

Samantha Torr, Secondary Director, Colchester Teacher Training Consortium

“In the light of exceptional circumstances with respect to the Covid-19 situation, the safety and wellbeing of the SCITT community and partner schools were our highest priorities as we rapidly implemented reasonable alternatives to replace face-to-face sessions and school placements. The following programme adjustments were established to support our Associate Teachers (ATs) in being able to demonstrate that they continue to be on track to meet the Teachers’ Standards and so secure their award of QTS:

  • A clear programme of professional enquiries that relate to the knowledge that underpins the Teachers’ Standards.
  • A subject knowledge programme, so that ATs continue to develop their own curriculum understanding and the appreciation of the significance of this.
  • Weekly group tutorials to share teaching experiences so that each AT widens their understanding, by contributing to discussions and learning from others.
  • Weekly Zoom-teach opportunities. These enable our ATs to continue to develop their practice and pedagogy. We have used a metacognitive framework called Thinking Moves: https://dialogueworks.co.uk/thinking-moves/. Each week the ATs either teach in relation to a move and a subject or co-analyse the teacheing of others, so that they continue to develop both their teaching and their reflective capabilities.
  • One-to-one contact from PTs to ATs each week with a focus on wellbeing and progress through set tasks from the Zoom Tutorial and Adjusted Timetable Guide timetable.
  • Support for the final assignment included in the weekly online group tutorial and the revised reading list to include online sources.
  • Alternative enquiries have been provided for Lesson Study, Switch on Reading, Post Key Stage experience, Phonics and Safeguarding.
  • ATs are maintaining PSHE, Behaviour and Ethics enquires online and in discussion with their tutor and colleagues.
  • A new enquiry was created for British Values.
  • Specialism tutors crafted enriched curriculum knowledge using online group work and associated tasks.”

Diane Swift, Director, Keele and North Staffordshire Teacher Education

Never have we needed teachers more than now and never has the hard work and dedication of ITT providers been more vital in protecting the flow of entrants to the profession. None of us can know what the world, and our schools, may look like over the coming weeks and months but what I can confidently say is that the ITT sector will continue to rise to the challenge, surpassing all expectation and continuing to ensure our children have the very best teachers in front of them (or at the other end of a computer!).


Supporting teaching and learning through the COVID-19 lockdown

Total UK school closures came along so quickly that many schools didn’t have a complete suite of online resources available to offer continued and complete online learning for their students. To address this Classoos, the enhanced mobile education platform, and its publisher partners including Oxford University Press, Hodder Education, Cambridge University Press, Bloomsbury, PG Online, Elmwood, Taylor & Francis, and Routledge have offered their books for free.

To ensure continuity of teaching and learning Classoos and its publisher partners are now able to offer their textbooks, all on the same platform, completely free of charge to any UK school for 90 days.

All teachers need to do is to complete an online form that starts the process to give them and their students complete access to a vast array of textbooks from the best and most popular education publishers.

Classoos is available over the web online, and with Apps for iOS, Android and Microsoft it is also available offline; offers thousands of textbooks which are searchable by curriculum, exam board, subject and language. While students are working virtually at home teachers can use it to give students lessons and assignments and continue their learning journey while the UK is still in lockdown.
Commenting on the offer, Tim Clark from Classoos said, “we’re delighted our publisher partners have agreed to work with us on this offer. As an education community we want to support teaching and learning as best we can. And as exams are cancelled this year – we realise that teachers will have to re-plan their lessons for the summer term – as they will no longer be holding revision classes. So now with the free content teachers can create new and in-depth lessons for that term”.

NordVPN offers educators its cybersecurity products for free

Expert explains online work protection matters

April 2, 2020. Due to the global pandemic, many universities and higher education institutions have moved their courses, exams, and even thesis defenses online. Many handy tools, like web conferencing apps, help people stay in touch during this hard time of self-isolation. But recent incidents show that they can’t be fully trusted.

Daniel Markuson, a digital privacy expert at NordVPN, says that even though moving studies online is an applaudable move, cybersecurity must remain a top priority. Criminals are doing their best to use the situation and scam vulnerable people.

Hackers can trick an employee into clicking on a phishing email. That would give them access to the employee’s computer and all accounts and systems it is connected to. There have also been reports of criminals breaking into virtual meetings. One careless click or connection to unsecured Wi-Fi can cause troubles no organization wants to face. Online security has never been more important. 

“We at NordVPN are moved by how the academic community is staying strong and trying to overcome the difficulties. We want to do our part in supporting employees of universities and other higher education institutions. That’s why we’re offering them free digital security services for six months,” says Daniel Markuson.

NordVPN, the world’s leading VPN service provider, invites educators facing lockdowns and other restrictions due to the pandemic to apply for 6 months of free NordVPN, NordLocker, and NordPass services.

VPN stands for “virtual private network” — a service that encrypts users’ internet traffic and protects their online identity. A VPN effectively grants employees working from home encrypted access to servers, systems, and databases that otherwise only could be accessed at an office. With a VPN turned on, no malicious actors can snoop on what people do online.

NordPass generates strong and unique passwords and keeps them in a secure vault. It also allows sharing passwords and notes among colleagues and students securely.

NordLocker encrypts all types of files on a computer and in the cloud. The tool keeps any work confidential and lets share it with colleagues and students safely.

An academic can apply for the free subscription by filling in a form. They will be asked to provide their work email address, the website of the university or other institution, and, if possible, a link to their faculty member profile. To see the list of the countries where educators are eligible for free subscriptions, please visit https://nordvpn.com/social-responsibility/educators/.


NordVPN is the world’s most advanced VPN service provider, used by over 12 million internet users worldwide. NordVPN provides double VPN encryption, malware blocking, and Onion Over VPN. The product is very user-friendly, offers one of the best prices on the market, has over 5,000 servers in 60 countries worldwide, and is P2P friendly. One of the key features of NordVPN is the zero-log policy. For more information: nordvpn.com.