IRONMAN is coming to Staffordshire… are you up for the challenge?

We all know Staffordshire is a great place to live, work and visit because that’s why we all live here, and now we’re also fast becoming a key destination for great sports and leisure activities. I can say this as we’ve just announced that next year we will be hosting the world famous Ironman competition. And even more impressively, within 24 hours of announcing the news over 3,000 people completed a pre-entry form which is the best response IRONMAN have ever had for a competition.

Not for the faint hearted, but great for Staffordshire and our local businesses as we will be welcoming thousands of athletes, their friends and families and spectators who will be visiting and staying in the county during the event.

If you’re up for it, you could join contestants in a 1.2 mile swim at Chasewater, a 56 mile cycle race taking in Lichfield, Burton and Cannock chase, and a 13.1 mile run at Shugborough. If that all sounds too much for you, remember we are always happy to see families keeping fit and healthy by taking in a few miles walking or cycling on our cycleways – all contributing to our ambition for an active Staffordshire.

Attracting such a high profile event like this is a real coup for the county, and will give a further boost to our already booming £1.6bn tourist economy. As we all know Staffordshire has lots of great places to visit and things to do, and hosting the event gives us the perfect opportunity to showcase to the rest of the world what our great county of Staffordshire has to offer for both inward investment and visitors.

Now from sports to food – as you will know we want people to be healthier and happier here in Staffordshire, which is one of our key priorities. To do this and to help cook up some community spirit in our local communities we have just launched a new campaign.

Casserole Club is a new scheme to help reduce loneliness and isolation amongst some of our older residents. The scheme matches up cooks (people who are happy to prepare an extra portion of food for a neighbour) with diners (those not able to prepare their own hot meals). It’s a unique scheme that gives people the chance to get to know one another over a good meal, which also helps strengthen our local neighbourhoods.

The great thing is that you don’t have to be a fantastic cook, you just need to be willing to make a little extra and give a little extra….which will undoubtedly go a long way to helping others. If it sounds like something that you could help with, you can sign up or find out more at www.casseroleclub.com.

It was also good to welcome Frank Green CBE, National School Commissioner for the Department for Education to the county for our recent Improving Schools Conference.

The event brought headteachers from across the county together and focussed on the importance of building strong networks between schools and supporting each other to help increase standards. During his speech, Mr Green emphasised the importance of schools working together to form clusters, including multi-academy trusts, allowing them to grow stronger as a result and improve the education of young people in the county. He also outlined the role of the regional school commissioner, and how they will link in with local authorities to drive up standards in local schools.

Our focus for the future is to support and challenge school leaders to be the best that they can be, improving the way schools work together, with their governors, and in partnership with parents and pupils. And the good practice highlighted at the conference showed just what Staffordshire schools are capable of.

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