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 698.

    council and school are really teaching youngsters (and the rest of us!!) just what kind of a free country/democracy we actually live in! Free Speech is only for an elite few!

  • rate this

    Comment number 697.

    If the blog was for a school project, and the project is now complete, the school is within its rights to stop more unwanted and sensationalist press attention. If she is so fascinated with food, she can continue her blog showing Mum's cooking...providing she is willing to accept the scrutiny. Whatever she does, I will not be reading it

  • rate this

    Comment number 696.

    Nothing raises the publics interest in a topic than banning it. Typical Council mentality - they could have come out of this well had they improved the quality of their offering over time. The only people who should fear for their jobs are the Council officials who made this decision. No doubt they will be backtracking very quickly, offering all sorts of apologies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 695.

    Perhaps there is a good reason why the caterers are fearful for their jobs.. professional chefs understand and utilise food critics as a tool to help them improve, but those who 'feel threatened' by analysis of their work clearly have an unprofessional approach to their work and ought to be at risk of losing their jobs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 694.

    @ Josephine Bennington

    Josephine - she's 9 years old. Are you serious?

  • rate this

    Comment number 693.

    Bob Webster Wirte
    European convention on human rights states:
    "Everyone has the right to freedom of expression.etc,"

    Oh dear.......this could be expensive for the council.

    Except for the fact that a school is a private place, not covered by the HRA. Furthermore, any school, COULD if it choses to make parents sign non disparagement clauses that would prevent public comments like this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 692.

    274. Josephine Bennington.

    I think it's time you (and a number of others on this blog) started to get out more often.

    This girl is NINE years old.

    If staff were really "In fear for their jobs", they certainly should have been. Look at the £2 cheeseburger lunch - SCANDALOUS, three pieces of cucumber, two potato croquettes and a nutritious Ice Lolly to finish. And people criticise MacDonalds!

  • rate this

    Comment number 691.

    "However this escalation means we had to act to protect staff from the distress and harm it was causing.

    What rubbish - they will say anything to justify their complete disregard for the health and well being of the children they are tasked with providing a decent meal for - Its a disgrace that they can get away with it by bullying a nine year old girl - and a disgrace that we let them..

  • rate this

    Comment number 690.

    So... Martha chooses a cheeseburger, then gives it a health rating of 2/10. Why didn't she choose a healthier option? Can we see what she's given at home, please? with her comments on that?

  • rate this

    Comment number 689.

    Crikey - and I thought we lived in a democracy where citizens have a right to expose poor service. Well, maybe someone else can take the photos for her - or is the school going to ban all photos? Or she can take the meals outside and photo them there - or may be she can reconstruct them in a drawing (like court images).

  • rate this

    Comment number 688.

    Surely if the girl and her family are paying for the food they can take pictures of it if they wish. The Council should get a rip and sort out more important issues such as the potholes, inflated salaries of their executives, etc before taking a sledgehammer to a schoolgirl. OTT sums this up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 687.

    Disgusting. Martha has taken an initiative and is presenting her views using Literacy and ICT skills. It's the fact that she choses to express her opinion publicly that the council don't like. She's a child with free will, not a contracted employee.

  • rate this

    Comment number 686.

    fact...useless councillors try to ban educational blog and free speech
    fact...millions of people complain and make them look complete idiots.

  • rate this

    Comment number 685.

    If the school or council are proud of the food they serve to the children, then allowing photos of the meals would be good publicity to encourage parents to sign up.

    Very interesting blog though. The photos of dinners from schools in other countries are fascinating. Very educational.

  • rate this

    Comment number 684.

    To those that say birnig in a packed lunch please conside those who can't afford to do this.

    For me when I was growing up free school dinner represented the the most healthy and only big square meal I got some days. For some kids it is a social need. So it need to be of a good standard and not leave kids starving.

    Thankfully I am fully empolyed and those dark days are behind me now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 683.

    Someone at Argyll and Bute council needs to grow up a little bit

  • rate this

    Comment number 682.

    If the catering staff were worried for their jobs because of publicity about their product then it wouldn't fill me with much confidence in it.

    Most of the school dinners I never ate should have been banned under the Geneva Convention. It was the worst thing about going to school. I used to like the free milk though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 681.

    It's nice to see the "system" supporting our children in the development of their formative view and encourage them to pursue change through creativity. The Big Society? Broken.

  • rate this

    Comment number 680.

    What does a 9 year old need a phone for in school in the first place ? The school should have banned them or at least make pupils leave them with their class teacher first thing to be collected at the end of the day. Kids are at school to learn not sit there texting/taking pictures. What next someone filming then editing a class teacher and blogging that to show them in a bad light ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 679.

    Typical dictatorial council, they have no right whatsoever to stop this brave wee lassie. As usual the ones' responsible for the ban will be hiding behind the paperwork chewing the end of their pencil to see what other mischeif they can cause. Good luck to Martha


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