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 1418.

    In an environment that we should be encouraging our kids to think for themselves in a constructive way, be able to pass criticism in a calm manner, I think the council scored an own goal attacking her blog; the easiest option.

    It is clearly one girls opinion, she is not responsible for the media's behavior.

    Thankfully sense is restored, not before time, should never have happened!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1417.

    I'm glad that the ban has been lifted - I emailed A&B council earlier today to encourage them to sack whoever it was who made the decision to enforce the ban

  • rate this

    Comment number 1416.

    Hurrah! Sense has prevailed. Good for you, Martha, and Martha's Dad!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1415.

    My kids all go sandwiches at school because of the frankly appalling lunch choices. Not to mention how expensive school meals have become. Major restaurants live or die by reviews they get, why should grotty councils escape the critique of the people that use their school dinners? Fearing for jobs? I should hope so. Our children should get the best service they can. Well done Martha your a star!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1414.

    It looks like the media has hijacked another story for their own devices. These journalists carp on about a free press but it seems to be an excuse to allow them to print anything they want in order to make money.

    No wonder the media seem to be such good bedfellows with politicians because they are as slimey as each other. Scum, the lot of them!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1413.

    @1406 - your comments bear no relation to the Scottish education system and guidelines on nutrition or on school management.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1412.

    Congratulations to the brave girl for standing up against 'the man'. : )

    ~Susan R. in Las Vegas, NV

  • rate this

    Comment number 1411.

    Ironically, Martha Payne was a blessing in disguise for the local authority, in that the school had successfully produced a child who could actually think for themselves. The irony of course was that they themselves were too dumb to spot it. There's hope yet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1410.

    1401 Nemesis65

    Spot on. Sadly in Tory Britain bullying especially public employees by the press is the order of the day. And most of the posters on this blog support it ... providing it's not them. Look at the comments about the standard of meals at the school based on a quick look at a few photos. Some idiot even commented that restaurants publish pictures of their food so what's the problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1409.

    @ Nemesis65 post 1401
    "Hmm I put a post in stating that the council had acted to stop the press bullying staff."

    How is bullying a 9 year old going to stop the press bullying the staff ?

    The real culprit here is bad journalism and the knee-jerk reaction of a dictatorial local counci.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1408.

    This is a victory!

    But oh dear! I bet there will be pupil pictures of school dinners from all over Britain now & Martha's class mates will doubless be photographing their dinners and hoping to put them on Martha's blog

    Poor Dad will have a lot more helping to do & I bet he is getting fed up with looking at dinners.The plastic tray does not help. Why can't they have proper plates?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1407.

    865. Jon Dylon
    "they have no authority to tell a pupil not to do this"


    They have EVERY authority to tell a pupil not to do this.
    Such strange perceptions some folk have.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1406.

    There are 3 problems here: (1)The nutritional value of this food is poor,
    2. The food is served and wrapped in plastic, which could transfer harmful chemicals into the food; (3)It is unethical to expose children to (1) and (2) and then ban them from this information to the wider public. The head teacher should prioritise the well-being of its children above the public perception of the school.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1405.

    Isn't it ironic how in a world crying out for more transparency that as soon as you get it, even from a young school girl just trying to express her thoughts and raise money for a good cause, that if it's not what the authorities want to hear the transparency goes away!
    As Paul said (see Editors picks) we need more of this kind of blog, not less!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1404.

    Congratulations Martha for your valiant efforts and subsequent victory! Yes, a nine-year-old CAN make a difference in the world.

    Keep up the good work, and best of luck in your next endeavour, whatever may it be.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1403.

    all authorities concerned about embarrassment to the public and on the defensive on issues of school dinners yet again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1402.

    A lot of negative comments on this story... Shouldn't members of the council and catering staff be focusing on the issue at hand instead of creating BBC accounts!?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1401.

    Hmm I put a post in stating that the council had acted to stop the press bullying staff. I also asked if HYS posters thought workplace bullying was acceptable. Surprise, surprise it was rated negatively.

    So I can only conclude that people on here don't believe employers should protect their staff from bullying and that workplace intimidation is completely acceptable.

    The joys of a Tory Britain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1400.

    @1339 Kevin Morice

    You really haven't grasped the fact that this was a SCHOOL SUPPORTED ACTIVITY (including the photography). It wasn't underhand. it wasn't hidden. You can't have read the Blog, or you'd know most of the comments were positive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1399.

    Wow - easy to see which of the commenters here work in local government or education isn't it? Here's a suggestion Kamerades - when you find you're defending the indefensible... stop.


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