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 538.

    [irony]Well done the Daily Record![/irony]

  • rate this

    Comment number 537.

    If the council expect children to eat their dinners they should be prepared to let others see what is being offered. It seems to me that while Martha's blog was balanced, mature and positive the council are acting in a way that is secretive, defensive and controlling. Perhaps Martha should stand for election to the council next - she seems to be a girl with sense and sensitivity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 536.

    No photos? Draw a picture, we'll get the gist. Besides it's the girls comments that really added to the photos.

  • rate this

    Comment number 535.

    Martha's charity just hit £10,000

  • rate this

    Comment number 534.

    Typical council response: stupidity. Martha Payne wasn't criticising the meals, she was rating them. The council should welcome her initiative, not state 'our school meal provision is fully compliant..' blah blah.
    Instead of gagging her and being defensive about it, why not praise her and LISTEN. She may have something to say. Praise to the school too, for letting her do it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 533.

    All those people saying she should take packed lunches: rubbish. If education authorities serve this stuff up, they should stand by it.

    Banning only leads to anonymised 'whistleblower' behaviour, and who can blame anyone for that if this is the hassle you get?

  • rate this

    Comment number 532.

    Well done Martha. Typical response from the anonymous jobsworths at a local council, who can't take a joke, and see all comment as criticism. Fry them for dinner!

    I wish we'd had blogs in the 1950s and 60s. I would have shown you truly terrible stewed outer cabbage leaves and tasteless gruel - the only high spots were the Steamed Puddings and Custard. I lament that Spotted Dick to this day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 531.

    Martha should draw her lunch and colour it in .(Covers art topic) Also , perhaps find out what is on offer at the council canteen and compare prices / nutritional value.

  • rate this

    Comment number 530.

    The blog could still continue, the council has only banned photography. Why does Mary not exercise her artistic skills or get a friend (such inclined) to help out?

  • rate this

    Comment number 529.

    "Argyll and Bute Council... Realising our potential together"

    Realising there's no potential altogether

  • rate this

    Comment number 528.

    "433 Roy
    If anyone wants to let A & B council know what they think:"

    Thanks for the link, a piece of mind about as palatable as the meal photo has been on passed, I assume heading straight for the cyber bin

  • rate this

    Comment number 527.

    To reply to Josephine Bennington:

    "she should have taken this up with the school and made a cogent case"

    SHE IS TEN YEARS OLD. She's not a lawyer, or experienced with dealing with hierarchy! She is however very savvy and understand the power of social media. Problem is so do the cowards at the council.

    I do have to congratulate you Josephine, never seen a post get so many negatives so quickly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 526.

    Modern school dinners are mostly junk food. The food sourced is one of the cheapest, the amount of saturated fat and oil used is staggering. Healthy value and nutritional value are in two different scales! Shame, the NHS will endup footing the bill later when these kids grow up with unhealthy food habits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 525.

    Too much heat and not enough light in too many of these comments.

    Fact. Martha has not been banned from blogging, just from taking photos of the meals.

    Fact. The school is a private, not public venue. The owners/managers or there agents are perfectly within their right to prevent photography if they wish.

  • rate this

    Comment number 524.

    Argyll and Bute Council you should be ashamed of your actions. You spend time and money to ban a 9 year old from taking photo's of her food instead of taking her comment's on board and fixing the meals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 523.

    Once again it is the red top press that foul things up - and misrepresent an intelligent and concerned young person into the bargain. Martha was *not* calling for "dinner ladies" to be sacked - she was publishing an interesting and informative blog that offered constructive criticism - and praise where it was due. She had the support of her school and the kitchen staff.

  • rate this

    Comment number 522.

    banning a little girl.. to me it makes the adults involved look small and afraid [of her]; they must fear that its not good[enough], whereas, in context, its just what it is. They added fuel.
    Worse, she showed at that age out-of-box thinking and tech skills etc etc, Britian says it wants...& her educators made the professional decision to stomp it out. 0/10 See me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 521.

    I think she should be encouraged to submit a Freedom of Information act request to the council for all information relating to the decision to ban the photos. She gets a lesson in citizenship and the council gets a lesson in transparency.

  • rate this

    Comment number 520.

    This is a disgrace.

    The blog was a creative, fund raising hobby. Surely an activity any young child should be encouraged in to?

    The only reason the school has put a stop to this is because of the potential embarrassment it could face for the poor quality of dinners provided.

    I say push on Martha, you've done brilliantly and will do even better if you don't give up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 519.

    Stopping her blog is stopping her right to free speech. The Council obviously feels it has something to hide. I was shocked by the portion sizes.


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