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 598.

    Isn't this a form of oppression / censorship. No matter what the subject is we should look at this and seriously think about whether the person who made it is fit for their role.

  • rate this

    Comment number 597.

    As the school & council are a publicly funded body, they can be forced under the freedom of information act to provide information (including images) of the school lunches. I would encourage Martha to take them on in this respect!

  • rate this

    Comment number 596.

    Spoilsports! Having looked at the blog it seemed to be well balanced and not overly critical of the food on offer at the school. The food, on the whole (except for that burger), looked reasonable and the blog had no discernible political content - a welcome thing in today's world. Argyll and Bute Council obviously subscribe to a policy where children should be neither seen nor heard.

  • rate this

    Comment number 595.

    as far as i remember radio 4 said it was done as a school project when they interviewed her and her father a few weeks back - maybe the school should have a 'spartacus' moment and every kid should take pictures - put the petty minded council in its place

  • rate this

    Comment number 594.

    This enterprising and proactive girls RESEARCH is an essential source of consumer feedback that should be valued by the authorities not restricted with fascist suppression of independent journalism. What are they frightened of? The public seeing the cucumber in the cup bit?

  • rate this

    Comment number 593.

    Some people haven't read the blog! Martha was doing what she was doing with a camera (not a phone) with the knowledge and (presumably) the approval of the school. The ban, by the Council, not the school, just gives the feeling that they have something to hide. Well done, Martha.

  • rate this

    Comment number 592.

    So the ban is on photography... how about if Martha sketches her school lunches, in the same way reports from the courts illustrate proceedings without using photographs? Go on Martha, keep the blog going...

  • rate this

    Comment number 591.

    #466 "Some hypothetical questions: would we be happy for a student to make covert videos of her lessons and post them on a blog? "

    Here's a question for you: Can you read? There was nothing covert about what she was doing.

    "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.

  • rate this

    Comment number 590.

    Well done young lady and her parents! You have highlighted the irresponsibility of local press - "Time to fire the dinner ladies", and the unenterprising bureaucracy of local government - "Our school meal provision is fully compliant with nationally-agreed nutritional standards". Standards are often a good thing, but they don't cater (excuse the pun) for all situations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 589.

    Who cares? People here are making out she's an amazing, brave kid trying to make school meals healthier - no she isn't, she isn't mini-Jamie-Olivier, she just started the blog as a creative writing project with her dad, not to try & 'change the world' at all. Ok, she raised some £ for charity, but it's just a blog, people are only making a fuss 'cause she's a kid. (go ahead, mark my comment down)

  • rate this

    Comment number 588.

    Looking at all of her school lunches compared to the foreigners makes me a little embarrassed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 587.

    God there are some hideously pretentious children. The parents must be unbearable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 586.

    Actually it looks quite tasty. Better than the blob of green slime, vomit tasting cheese flan and runny semolina of my youth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 585.

    It gives the reason why she was banned in the article and it was honestly the newspapers fault. The dinner ladies just make what their told to make but a headline was quite hostile towards them.
    That is why she was banned, because of an over-zealous media reaction to the innocent dinner ladies.
    Oh she was just banned from taking pictures which has nothing to do with freedom of speech you fools.

  • rate this

    Comment number 584.

    I guess the School and the Council are embarrassed at the awful looking food they are serving up.
    The School dinners I had at School (35 years ago!) were excellent.
    I shall have to get my young son to take some photo's of his school lunches for comparison. Hopefully they are better than what I have viewed on Martha's site, although it might explain why my son wants to take pack lunches instead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 583.

    @572 - I take it you know very little about the Scottish education system which is fully provided by oh who em ah thats right the Council.

  • rate this

    Comment number 582.

    What happened to "Human Rights" and "Freedom of speech" in this situation...?

  • rate this

    Comment number 581.

    Shame on you A & B council...even the children know you aren't doing your jobs properly!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 580.

    The council's statement just confirms their ignorance and stupidity. The photos don't represent choices available to pupils? They represent choices MADE by one pupil. But she didn't cook it herself, the school provided it. I'm sure there's all manner of fine cuisine available in that canteen, but the photos show what actually ends up on children's plates. And frankly, it's not always good enough.

  • rate this

    Comment number 579.

    This sort of thing is exactly why we need a right of free speech enshrined in a bill of rights. Why should the local authority have the right to ban the exposure of their bad practise? Our freedoms need protection from these tinpot dictators.


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