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 658.

    The usual high-handed pettiness being exercised by people in so-called authority that seems to be creeping into every corner of life in this nation. If the council were worried that the pictures were not representative this could have been discussed and, if need be, remedied on the blog itself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 657.

    Nice to see we're teaching kids from a young age that they have absolutely no freedom of speech! Good on you, Britain!

  • rate this

    Comment number 656.

    You would think that the council would be welcoming her comments - under the new Curriculum for Excellence, pupils are expected to be "Effective Contributors"

  • rate this

    Comment number 655.

    Maybe Argyll and Bute Council needs to refresh their knowledge of the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 10 states "Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority". Photos are of food and don't show other pupils so they can't claim child protection

  • rate this

    Comment number 654.

    Imposing a ban suggests to me that the authority / school are afraid / ashamed of a proportion of meals served, such as that rated 2/10 in the photo. Nothing to hide, then why ban? Brilliant idea Martha, I hope the ban is lifted!

  • rate this

    Comment number 653.

    @635. krokodil why is she a silly little girl?

    What she is writing is more accessible to children her own age who will probably look to her rather than someone like Jamie Oliver. What she is doing should be applauded and not lauded by the likes of you!

  • rate this

    Comment number 652.

    So tell the council what you think here:

    My view, interesting blog given the context of who wrote it - the images are statement of fact - whether it was her choice or not, they were what she was served. Council claims they misrepresented fact - how can a picture do that!
    Banned because these facts published by press upset staff - pathetic & idiotic

  • rate this

    Comment number 651.

    Standards of culinary excellence at Argyll and Bute's schools aside the idea that the council or anyone in it should feel it is ok, or indeed that it has any power to stop this girl from documenting the food she is provided publically or privately is outrageous and unbelievable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 650.

    Back to the 'too hot', 'too cold' human condition. We have a young girl showing several different admirable qualities & an opinion on a very topical subject as well as raising money for a charity, and here she is getting castigated for it..No wonder kids are rioting or chasing hedonism, because they get scorned for being productive. Whatever happened to supporting great yound minds?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 649.

    I went to a very expensive Public School. Over the decades it has produced a long line of rugby internationals for England and Scotland. You can't produce physiques capable of that on rubbish. But I have to report that at lunch one day the bloke sitting next to me fished out of the murk of his mutton stew a bone with a tooth still attached.

  • rate this

    Comment number 648.

    We may have more pandas than conservative MP's.
    But the conservatives do have one positive policy.
    Make it easier sack incompetent staff.
    A few people at Argyll and Bute Council should get their jotters for this.
    The director of education for a start, and whoever else had a hand in this debacle.
    The child does write an extremely good blog. Now her freedom of speech and expression is banned.

  • rate this

    Comment number 647.

    i love how school mission statements involve things like 'development' and 'nurturing learning' and 'maturing' pupils and 'encouraging' thought and individuality etc... but only within well determined boundaries

  • rate this

    Comment number 646.

    What a shame the council are trying to supress this young girl. The blog is about the quality of food offered and seems a perfectly reasonable discussion, especially so when primary school kids are taking an interest in the food they are provided.
    If the picture in the article is indicative of the quality of food provided I would be very concerned indeed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 645.

    Good for you Martha, I wonder if the council settle down with the local mayor to eat something similar at there annual twinning association meeting.....??

  • rate this

    Comment number 644.

    just shows the council don,t like the truth.

    they should be proud a nine year old took the right steps in first place.

    they should encourage children to be truthful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 643.

    Poor Martha, I think she should be allowed to continue with her blogs and pictures especially raising money at the same time!! She deserves credit not criticism. I loved my school dinners and remember them fondly. Especially rice pudding and jam or chocolate sprinkles. I also liked the gypsy tart (yes I know the rhyme!)
    Argyll and Bute council should be ashamed!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 642.

    I am disturbed by the decision to suspend the a blog of that a little girl set up to share something that she felt was important to her. It sets an awful precedent, discourages freedom of opinion and expression and encourages covering up rather than solving problems. (i.e. the quality of school dinners). Imagine if this little girl had been blogging about bullying or sexual abuse. What then?

  • rate this

    Comment number 641.

    Private/Public? Who cares, if my kids were being served this muck, I'd want to see evidence. Perhaps snallan would like to exist on the awful muck we see in the picture. At least one of those 'managers' needs to see the inside of a JobCentre+ A few pictures of council officials on junkets might good to see as well!

  • rate this

    Comment number 640.

    Something is seriously wrong with our legal system if a 9 year old girl's photos of her school dinner are banned from publication and yet the daily lies, harassment and corruption created by newspapers continues.

  • rate this

    Comment number 639.

    The staff in the canteen shouldn't fear for their jobs, as they've heated up and served the food perfectly.

    It's the council who would be the ones in trouble, as they deliver this rubbish (all frozen, I'm sure) to the school canteen every morning. No wonder they're styling themselves as the saintly protectors of dinner ladies.

    If the school cooks were actually allowed to cook, it'd be better.


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