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 1078.

    Victory the council has just reversed their decision!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1077.

    Martha has a promising future ahead of her (BBC HR take note). Are the council trying to place themselves at the other end of the spectrum? I think an A+ to Martha and a C- to Argyll and Bute Council.......

  • rate this

    Comment number 1076.

    Prompt effective action indeed from an Education Department that manages, on its web-site, "Meeting Pupils' Needs" to refer to 'Independant (sic) Support' - perhaps they're cutting back on nutrition to buy a dictionary...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1075.

    i feel sorry for all the children who only have this type of meal as there main meal a day, this is not a proper meal some animals even have better quality i would to see all the politions to eat this

  • rate this

    Comment number 1074.

    Typical council pen pushers, Instead of banning this girl they should be congratulating her with an award while getting off their backsides from behind their desks and do something about it. That school lunch is shocking! It's just fat and sugar! Where is the veg, protein and nutrients. This just proves that public sector workers are rubbish and should have pensions removed and lose their jobs!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1073.

    Fact-No school meals are really good enough like anything much else in this world regardless of complaints anyway

    Maybe those who think it's acceptable should be fed it themselves every day rather than trying to suggest it is?

    Should work as UN in Syria sa nothing to see there either aye?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1072.

    WHY is the BBC is trying to hijack photos of school meals that should to Martha's blog, by asking readers to send them to the BBC instead? The BBC is always on the cadge for free content instead of paying journalists and photographers. It is WHOLLY INAPPROPRIATE, especially here. Send your school lunch pics to and support Martha's campaign, not the tightwad BBC!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1071.

    It would be quite appropriate and in keeping with consumer/taxpayer rights, if as a result of this all parents encouraged their children to keep class/all school ratings of dinners. In fact, how about national websites and ratings?
    snallan @ 525. Is a local authority, publicly-funded school 'private' or 'public'?.
    Ah - great !!!!!!!!have just heard the council is to lift the ban

  • rate this

    Comment number 1070.

    fly on the wall at the school meeting: Dinner staff "she is showing how poor our food is, and that we can't cook... we will be fired because we are useless!" Head "you are useless, but nobody in schools are accountable anyway"

  • rate this

    Comment number 1069.

    It looks like some pretty awful food is being served to these school children.

    This is going to prove a big PR headache for the Scottish Parliament and it may just open up the question regarding school meal provision for the whole of the UK again.

    What is the standard fare and quality like elsewhere in the UK?

    Maybe Jamie Oliver needs to go back and fight for the children once more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1068.

    council's???? what would we do without them? :s

  • rate this

    Comment number 1067.

    The council should not be banning the blog - they should be writing one of thier own as and when needed to refute any criticisms levelled at the school lunch.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1066.

    Censorship of this sort is harmful to society. We need to know if someone, somewhere is doing a shoddy job, simple as. And very hypocritical to talk about the feelings of the catering staff when they are only carrying out the policy of the school and the catering company.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1065.

    Tpical local gov approach - don't fix the problem, cover it up !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1064.

    the govt goes on about initiative for the young people, here is a prime example of double standards the local council suppressing peoples right to an opinion, from what i have seen little of what she said was negative, this blog is on fire over this issue, someone in argyll and bute needs beating with a sharp stick, view this as positive info a and b and use it as continuous product improvement !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1063.

    Unbelievable. With so many more important and urgent matters to deal with, a bunch of faceless jobsworths decide to censor an innocent and well-intentioned blog by a young girl. In a world where young people don't have the best reputation, this girl takes some initiative and starts something innovative to improve the quality of school meals and feed children in less fortunate situations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1062.

    The council's attitude and position here is ludicrous - they are stifling the freedom of speech of a young student, who is clearly very articulate but fair in her blogging. Blogging is a product of today's web environment. To ban this type of photography in a state funded school smacks a little of a cover up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1061.

    Everyone with a complaint on this should phone the council involved.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1060.

    To A&B council - do they have any evidence of staff being threatened or harassed as a result of the blog?

    Otherwise the reason given appears to be that staff were concerned that the truth was being publicised. Clearly A&B have a problem with that

  • rate this

    Comment number 1059.

    Typical knee-jerk reaction from bureaucrats! If they thought more constructively than destructively they'd realise that they could turn this into fantastic publicity, and give a lot of support to Mary's Meals at the same time, making them look even better! But no - as usual they just censor the negative instead of turning it into a positive. Shame on the council.


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