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 998.

    We need more of this not less, make it compulsory! In my opinion every school and hospital for that matter should do this. After all a focus on customer care is a good thing and will drive up for the councils excuses they are very weak.
    1 I'm sure the staff work with the budget they are given and
    2.If this is not representative, put photos of all the meals on offer on the site....

  • rate this

    Comment number 997.

    Admit, I made packed lunch as didn't want to make a fuss. They do healthy foods in class, kids see it as part of reduce, re-use recycle thing. Would be better if each school could find out what veggies/fruits kids like, and how, do bar charts, taste samples, see how much is thrown away, discuss why WITH DECISION MAKERS, have some INPUT. As it is, many packed lunches are less healthy than school's

  • rate this

    Comment number 996.

    It was the irresponsible headline in the Daily Record that caused the problem – shame on them for attacking the Dinner ladies directly and spoiling Martha’s blog as well as the charity fund raising - and all to sell a few extra sheets of paper!

  • rate this

    Comment number 995.

    Disgraceful behaviour by Argyll and Bute. Shameful. Let's hope they get voted out of power.

  • rate this

    Comment number 994.

    We are all supposed to compliant little citizens who are told by there better they have free speech but only so long as that which is said is following the line and not highlighting the inadequacies of petty administrative functionaries. The mantra s Don't Rock the boat or embarrass you betters, or we will ostracized you or exclude you. Time for the UK population to wake up to this nonsense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 993.

    Banning Martha's blog and photos is silly. This is participative democracy at it's most basic and it is telling that Argyll and Bute are reacting with fear rather than action. Probably not time to fire the dinner ladies. MAybe time to fire whoever took this decision?

  • rate this

    Comment number 992.

    Quote from story :
    "This was a culmination of a period of seven weeks of this level of coverage and we had to take some action to protect our staff."

    Yes, and? Obviously the council think the staff are more important than the children...?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 991.

    Good News!! Her charity is doing well!! She has raised over 200% of what she hoped to raise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 990.

    hope Martha keeps up her blog just in case the lea tries to throw her out of school, as if.

  • rate this

    Comment number 989.

    Utterly, utterly ridiculous on the part of the council. I've written to them and I urge everyone else to do the same:

    Can anyone explain under what statute the council can prevent Martha taking pictures of the food? What would be their legal recourse if she continued?

  • rate this

    Comment number 988.

    Interesting on several counts.
    a) The council thinks that banning a photos instead of improving the disgusting looking meal is the best solution
    b) That they have advice that they indeed have the power to do this - I would expect a legal challenge to the ban to be successful and force a climb down.
    c) That this democracy has descended to the point where police, councils etc have these powers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 987.

    This about how the girl made bad choices of food is weird. Again, can you imagine a food critic being told that he should have picked better food after giving a bad review of a restaurant?

    Maybe while they're working on their media skills, this Council should indicate more clearly of menus which of the choices is the wrong one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 986.

    I imagine this blog was not entirely her own idea; I also imagine that there are hopes that from it will emerge a lucrative meida contract of some sort and of course an iopportunity in due course to claim the whole thing as an accomplishment, say on a UCAS form. But then I'm a cynic, or reallst.

  • rate this

    Comment number 985.

    Daft reaction on the part of Argyll and Bute Council

  • Comment number 984.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 983.

    In banning her, they have merely succeeded in blowing the issue into a big fat PR headache for themselves. In the words of Nelson Munce: Ha ha!

  • rate this

    Comment number 982.

    An Interesting aside here, I note that posts critising the media are being rated down. I wonder who is reading these posts anyway ? Are the media really blameless or are jourmalists the most common readers of this blogg and dont like their profession being critisised? ( And will this post get voted down or will someone repsond and tell me why this story isnt the medias fault?)

  • rate this

    Comment number 981.

    I feel very sorry for the children at this school and hope and pray all this media attention will do some good for them.

    Here's what our 7 year old son had to chose from today

    (Line caught Fish) & Chips, or Broccoli & Cauliflower Mornay or Cottage Pie with Peas or Green Salad. Followed by Cranberry & Oat Sponge Cake or Fresh Fruit Salad, Chilled Water or Milk, cost £2.10

    Thank goodness

  • rate this

    Comment number 980.

    SNP lead council... stifles online debate, SHOCK!

    For those that say she should have never been allowed to post in the first place and that schools are private. No they ain't, you and I pay for these schools and we have every right to know what goes on in them.

    Or shall we return to the dark ages of gruel and slops?

  • rate this

    Comment number 979.

    Anyone who publishes comments to the wide community about people and organisations/companies must be accountable for their comments. If children are too young to be accountable, they should not be able to publish.

    This comment also applies to websites like Rate My Teacher where all sorts of hurtful and damaging comments can be published by children without any accountability.


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