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 1098.

    its like they say in the restaurant industry, "if ya dont want a bad review, stop serving up s@*&^"

  • rate this

    Comment number 1097.

    Argyll & Bute Council is controlled by the SNP/Independents (SNP leading), with 28 seats between them (opposed by 4 Cons & 4 LibDems).

    I hope the people of Argyll & Bute - and Scotland - remember this terrible incident of bullying a little girl and attempted censorship in future votes...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1096.

    "...playing outside instead of being in front of a computer..."

    Have you seen the weather of late? Obviously oblivious like your sense of irony...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1095.

    @ 525 snallan

    "Fact. The school is a private, not public venue. The owners/managers or there agents are perfectly within their right to prevent photography if they wish."

    I'd have thought that the 'owners' of a state funded school would be the taxpayers, but maybe I'm just old fashioned...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1094.

    Once again a 'youngster' who has the intelligence and the aptitude to do something really positive is put down. What a pity the hierocracy has chosen to squash this youngster’s enthusiasm! I hope that she becomes a journalist. AND if the food is not that good then the dinner ladies and the Manager who produces the menus deserve to lose their jobs. For goodness sake let’s get positive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1093.

    As someone who worked as a Solicitor for an Education Authority for 14 years, I am appalled by this. Some very weak people are exploiting the upset of the Dinner Ladies in order to try to stop the creative activity of a 9YO in exposing their shortcomings. If these ladies are under pressure, it is because the Service is under-resourced, hence the poor offerings Martha -the customer - has posted

  • rate this

    Comment number 1092.

    Sounds like someone has something to hide. More support for Martha.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1091.

    Martha's blog is amazing: "Veritas Ex Gustu, truth from tasting in Latin but who knows Latin?" ... Well, Michael Gove certainly doesn't!!

    Hats off to Martha!! What a great kid.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1090.


    Argyll & Bute council website is 'closed this weekend for maintenance'.

    If you can't stand the heat Cleland Sneddon, then get outa the bl@@dy kitchen!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1089.

    All was well until some callous journalist pitched in an irrelevant and unjustified headline. Never mind about "Fire the Chef", fire the journalist. His comments were not free speech but abuse from a position of privilege and not aimed at improving anything apart from his paper's circulation. Typical.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1088.

    such a shame, she sounds so sweet in her blog

  • rate this

    Comment number 1087.

    On reading the blog I have not found it to be highly critical of the food at all. In fact, the taste ratings that she gives show the food is well appreciated.

    Rather than venting here, if anybody feels strongly you can constructively complain to the council (,

    or - even better - donate to her cause! (

  • rate this

    Comment number 1086.

    I was munching down school meals in early nineties. They look like they have improved a little bit- we got a lot of mince and tatties, and jam sponge, no salad or fresh veg just overcooked green beans!
    This is a really interesting story- good on her for exposing it to the world. I hope she continues writing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1085.

    I don't agree with the comments saying the school has a right to ban things as it's a private place. These are just weasel words. An honest person would be ashamed to attempt an argument like that.
    The same can be said for the comment of they should have complained first; tough, there's no rule that said you have to be treated like this and ask nicely for things to improve. Dickensian Britain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1084.

    I think the other issue is, certainly in english schools and scotland is the same you have to pay for school meals, its nearly £10 a week for my daughter and if she was being served up that amount of food then id be demanding a refund. The kitchen staff should feel there jobs are under threat, they arent doing there job properly. And anyway if you as properly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1083.

    Run Child, The Bandwagon is passing and Jamie Oliver will be jumping on soon.....................................

    In all seriousness, I ask my child every day what he had for lunch and he always tells me he can't remember, This at least gives me some idea....

  • rate this

    Comment number 1082.

    Bit of an own goal by the council. Martha's Just Giving site shows that she's now raised over £17,000 - 250% of her target - whereas before all the kerfuffle the total stood at £2,000. Well done Argyll & Bute Council!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1081.

    I cant read all 1000 comments, but I hope that someone has remarked that only those that have something to be ashamed of need to be worried about the truth - especially from a rather bright schoolgirl!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1080.

    Surely the best course of action for the school and council to have taken was to ask her to put more photo's of other meals offered and to try and improve the standard and quality of food provided. These meals are paid for by the taxpayer and pupils parents if Macdonalds can provide cheap food and make a profit surely a non profit organisation, the council, can do it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1079.

    From Marthas Blog:
    "Since my blog became well read we have had a special visitor at school who wears a white coat and hair net. She looks at my food when I am walking away from the queue".

    Hmm, me thinks they have something to hide!


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