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 618.

    pathetic, ridiculous, I hope the people of Argyll remember this when local elections come round

  • rate this

    Comment number 617.

    Why doesn't the school publish it's own pictures of what they're going to feed it's pupils. Hmmmmmmmm
    She's not complaining, she's rating her meals, she's nine and it raises funds for a charity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 616.

    This smacks of a parent complaining in the guise of a 9 year old. I agree the food is not appropriate (& certainly not worth £2 of anyone's money) but for a kid to be used in this way would be wrong

  • rate this

    Comment number 615.

    To put some balance on things, not all school dinners are this poor. My son's primary school and the local council who provide them are proud of the meals they provide and invited parents in to share a meal with their child. Not only was this fun for us both, it reassured me about quality. The council in this case need to do better and should not punish the child for highlighting their failure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 614.

    Martha gave the food in the picture 2/10 what a generous young girl, i'd have given the 'it' a minus figure for sure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 613.

    as there been a sense of humour bypass or have i missed the point?

  • rate this

    Comment number 612.

    Whatever happend to freedom of speech?
    The democratically elected council seem to think they can trample over the freedom of the public to express their opinion on the provision of school meals for their children.
    Surely rating school meals that are paid for by parents, both directly and through taxes, is no different to visiting a restaurant and rating the food you paid for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 611.

    Bravo for her, and a big boo to the council for being so paranoid and short-sighted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 610.

    Its completely ridiculous and over the top to "ban" it. However on what grounds can they ban here from taking photos of lunch? What rules or laws is she breaking by taking photos of here lunch???

  • rate this

    Comment number 609.

    If schools and councils do not want us to see what they are feeding our children, it can only be because they know there would be public outcry. We have the right to see what our children are eating, and I hope this girl's highlighting this issue will lead to some much-needed postive change. Jamie Oliver, your job is not over yet!

  • rate this

    Comment number 608.

    Josephine, you are missing the point. She setup the blog as a way of raising money for charity. It just so happens that she rated their food. It could have been the class room cleanleness or the state of the playing fields. More children should be encourage to use the internet in this way, There is nothing wrong with having and opinion no matter how old you are. The school said yes originally

  • rate this

    Comment number 607.

    Perhaps, though we'll never know thanks to council censorship.

    Though wouldn't there be a duty of care failing if a child was allowed to choose an inadequate meal when better was on offer?

  • rate this

    Comment number 606.

    This is the kind of supposed free country we live in, where a child isn't even allowed to comment negatively on the slop they are given to eat. I remember school dinners as being vile homogenised piles of stodge, and don't imagine they've improved in 20 years. The cloak and dagger methods used by government organisations, for hiding their inadequacies in every area of involvement, are disgusting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 605.

    For all those slamming the girl for expressing an opinion, do you really want you children growing up to be mindless zombies or would you like them to be creative and be able to express themselves?
    She should continue to post on her blog and encourage others to post their school meals and rate them.
    The press were awful with the headline and that was the problem, not her

  • rate this

    Comment number 604.

    If schools prepared meals from fresh ingredients, rather than pre-prepared, they would be able to offer nutritionally balanced but far more appetising food for the children. They would also be in control of all those added 'ingredients' necessary to make glop taste something like.

    The children might even get to use proper crockery and cutlery. Bonus!

  • rate this

    Comment number 603.

    To refuse to allow this student to take pictures of her lunch is a form of censorship in my view. She has a right to freedom of expression just as we all do. The sad truth is that we completely ignore what children want and rarely ask them about the things that affect them; had she approached the school she would have been ignored. Why shouldn't she review her school meals? We review restaurants!

  • rate this

    Comment number 602.

    There must be some serious idiots and logic defying decision makers at the council- I can't believe they have even read her blog. Yes there is the odd poor meal including the ice-lolly / burger one the media regularly use, but a lot of the meals she gives good marks for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 601.

    for all your people with the negative comments shes a 9year old girl for goodness sake,at least she had the guts to do somthing about it,and rightly so,a scabby burger,two fish fingers a ice lolly and 3 slices of cucumber what sort of lunch is that?not very healthy and wouldnt fill a hole in ur tooth,and have you never thought maybe they cant afford school dinners,plus £2,000for charity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 600.

    From the council on the BBC article above...

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

    You have to be kidding me. Why would they fear that?? No seriously. You mean somebody might be held accountable?? In the Public Sector?? No, we can't have that. Ok, let's manage that by banning photos of what they serve up. :facepalm:

  • rate this

    Comment number 599.

    What I wish more focus was put on is the reasoning behind the rule that pupils can't have fruit until they eat their dessert, which is often cake..

    Is it a case that fruit is more expensive than the desserts provided? THIS should be annoying people more than the ban on taking photographs, which i agree is silly and an over-reaction.


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