NeverSeconds blogger Martha Payne school dinner photo ban lifted

Photo of Martha's school lunch Martha gave this cheeseburger meal a health rating of 2/10

A controversial ban preventing a nine-year-old girl from photographing her school meals has been lifted following a storm of protest on the internet.

Martha Payne, from Argyll, has now recorded more than three million hits on her NeverSeconds blog.

Argyll and Bute Council said press coverage of the blog had led catering staff to fear for their jobs.

But council leader Roddy McCuish later told the BBC he had instructed senior officials to lift the ban immediately.

The schoolgirl's father, David Payne, who helped her set up the blog, welcomed the decision.

Martha began publishing photographs of her Lochgilphead Primary School lunches on 30 April.

Martha Payne's father, David: ''It (the ban) was disappointing''

She gave each meal a 'food-o-meter' and health rating, and counted the number of mouthfuls it took her to eat it.

She had been using the blog to raise money for the Mary's Meals charity.

But in a post published on Thursday evening, Martha said her headteacher told her not to take any more photographs for the blog.

Under the headline "Goodbye", the post stated: "This morning in maths I got taken out of class by my head teacher and taken to her office.

Charity blog

"I was told that I could not take any more photos of my school dinners because of a headline in a newspaper today."

The council's decision to impose the ban came after the Daily Record newspaper published a photograph of Martha alongside chef Nick Nairn under the headline "Time to fire the dinner ladies."

Martha Payne Martha's NeverSeconds blog started as a writing project with her dad

Speaking on BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme Mr Payne said his daughter was not happy about the council's decision.

He added: "I understand that it's brought pressure from around the world and media interest, but that is really out of our control.

"But we are very supportive of the school - the fact that she has been encouraged to blog and she got permission to do this is testament to them.

"Everyone in the kitchens has been wonderful to Martha and she enjoys going into lunch every day."

By Friday morning, the council's decision had sparked a furious reaction on social media.

Local MSP Mike Russell, Scotland's education secretary, tweeted he would be writing to the council's chief executive in his capacity as local MSP, calling for the "daft" ban to be overturned.

Job fears

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver tweeted: "Stay strong Martha" before urging his 2.3 million followers to retweet the message.

Argyll and Bute Council later issued a statement defending its position and claimed media coverage of the blog had led catering staff to fear for their jobs.

It added: "The photographic images uploaded appear to only represent a fraction of the choices available to pupils, so a decision has been made by the council to stop photos being taken in the school canteen.

Council leader Roddy McCuish: ''The last thing we want to do is to persecute a nine-year-old girl''

"There have been discussions between senior council staff and Martha's father, but despite an acknowledgement that the media coverage has produced these unwarranted attacks, he intimated that he would continue with the blog."

Cleland Sneddon, the executive director of community services at Argyll and Bute Council, told the BBC that school catering staff had been left "in tears" by press coverage.

However, Mr McCuish later told the BBC Radio 4's World at One programme that he had instructed senior officials to lift the ban immediately.

He said: "It is a good thing to do, to change your mind, and I have certainly done that."

Mr McCuish said he had not yet been able to inform Martha of the lifting of the photo ban, but had a meeting arranged with her father next Thursday to discuss "a way forward".

'Dinner summit'

In a BBC interview Martha's father said he was really pleased for his daughter that ban had been lifted.

Start Quote

Martha has now raised enough money to build a kitchen in Malawi for children receiving Mary's Meals ”

End Quote Spokesman Mary's Meals

He added: "She will look forward to being able to take her photographs of her food and writing about it as she has done so far."

Publicity caused by the ban helped the schoolgirl smash through her £7,000 fundraising target for the Mary's Meals charity - with total pledges of more than £30,000 being made by Friday afternoon.

The total stood at only about £2,000 on Thursday evening.

A Mary's Meals spokesman said: "We are overwhelmed by the huge response to her efforts today which has led to so many more people donating to her online donation page.

"Thanks to this fantastic support, Martha has now raised enough money to build a kitchen in Malawi for children receiving Mary's Meals as part of our Sponsor A School initiative and has broken the record for hitting a Sponsor A School online fundraising target in the quickest amount of time".

Among the pictures Martha published on her blog was one featuring her £2 lunch of a pizza slice, a croquette, sweetcorn and a cupcake.

Martha wrote: "I'm a growing kid and I need to concentrate all afternoon and I can't do it on one croquette. Do any of you think you could?"


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  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    Well done Martha; an excellent idea and a great way of showing parents what kids are eating. When I was 9 years old school diners were great and were served on proper plates and not a prisoners plate presented in your photo. The food also looked far more appetizing back in 1978. I assumed that after Jamie Oliver's show the government had reformed school dinners; clearly they haven't!

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    How shameful of the local council. This is a blatant attack on free speech and democracy. Martha's parents pay for those terrible dinners - even if she gets free school meals we as taxpayers pay for them. How dare they take away her right to show the world what it is we are all paying for. I thought we lived in democracry proud of free speech and freedom of the press - not North Korea.

  • Comment number 76.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    The council are obviously pretty stupid! By banning it they are acknowledging that the photos evidence how poor the food is (I've read the blog - rarely fresh unprocessed meat/fish and few fresh veg, just tinned corn & iceberg lettuce). Feeding kids warmed up processed rubbish :(. I can make fresh meat casserole with mash & green beans for £2 a head - why can't they do it in schools?

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    Take heed BBC
    This poor girl must feel like many posters here on HYS ( myself included ) whose comments are censored because of `political fashion'.
    Jamie you were doing a great job, and I think 2/10 for the cheese burger was overmarked

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    An inspiration to kids everywhere. Highlights how we treat our children in schools today. I remember my school meals being so much better than today's and that was in supposedly tight times, yet here we live in a modern technological age and this is the rubbish we give our kids to eat. Shame on education authorities for letting it get this bad!

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    Ridiculous. You'd think the council officials could find a more productive use for the exorbitant amount of money they collect in taxes. Why is it necessary to constantly remind these people they are there to serve us and not the other way around.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    School Inspectors often criticize Primary Schools for under-developed IT skills teaching. A bright 9-year old makes meaningful, imaginative use of IT, whilst also demonstrating highly developed communication (language)

    The council's Director of Education should resign. It's a school. It's aim must be to encourage young minds to develop. The council don't like the results of good teaching. OMG!

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    The best way for authority to deal with opposition is censorship.

    Any educator who believes this was the best lesson to teach and the best way to tackle this issue has demonstrated a lack of intelligence in failing to appreciate the PR ramifications, and a lack of moral fibre in the approach they took.

    They are clearly not suitable for the role and they must be removed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    Control them whilst they're young huh? another nail in the coffin of "free speech". Mind you, I can't say as I blame her head teacher..... Did you see the state of that burger?

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    As far as I can see the school was supportive,it was the council that's the problem. Maybe school knows how awful the meals are. Martha rated the health bit far too high, just that small amount of cucumber is pathetic. From a report sometime ago there was several selections to choose from,which have to be thrown. We had one choice, really well cooked at school by kitchen staff. Bring this back

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    Martha's reviews aren't all that negative - quite the opposite in many cases. I think the real problem for the council arises when she shows things that people in other countries send - for example, the meal from a Spanish nursery, which looks fantastic and costs far less. These examples highlight what poor value for money we get over here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    What a sad educational experience for Martha ... "make critical comments and you will be silenced. "

    Martha should continue writing - and drawing - about her school meals, both for the benefit of the charity for which she has done so much and for the sake of free speech

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    Seriously 9 years old!!!!! Don't be so precocious little Miss Goody two-shoes

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    You need to bear in mind that this girl has been choosing to show us what she's requested from the dinner ladies. There may also have been the choice of a green salad, peas, carrots or who knows what else to go with that burger. Only we'll never know because we can see only what we can see. She's had her fun. Time to call it a day, though, because the Daily Record has ruined things for everyone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    The council and the school are publically-funded bodies, not some private company. There should be more photos of the kind of stuff they expect children to eat, not less. Perhaps if there were more, a scandal about the standards of school meals would not become so obvious. This is a shameful act by a public body with no obvious aim other than to cover up their own deficiencies here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    Many years ago when I was your age Martha I stood up to the LEA on a decision I thought was unfair...I was patronised too. Speaking up about what you feel is right is a good thing at any age. I hope your voice grows louder....there are a lot of us listening to what you are saying. Well done.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    The correct relationship of the council to Mr. Payne is that of an employee.He pays their wages, they would do well to remember that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    If she was my daughter she would still be taking pictures.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    They should fight the council on this, the council has no right to censor free speech.... and if by some loophole legislation they do then it should be rectified immediately!


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