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 1438.

    The council staff involved in this stupid ban, which has now been overturned, should be sacked for gross incompetence, but don`t hold your breath

  • rate this

    Comment number 1437.

    Good turnround, even though the council should not have done this in the first place.

    I'm a bit concerned about the relative urgency the council has displayed though. Haul the kid out of lessons to stop the blog versus arrange a meeting next Thursday to sort it out? Maybe if they had arranged the meeting first they would not have got into this mess.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1436.

    Well that's the quickest response to a letter of complaint I've ever received. If only this Tory-led government were so responsive...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1435.

    Just had a quick look at the Blog and to be honest very complimentary, when it was good, clearly stated, when poor clearly stated and why. Without this form of feedback how can you improve? Understand that it is now revoked, but the main point in today's society is the constant topic of no photos, we will be like the 1800's with a black blanket behind us to ensure no one else is in the shot

  • rate this

    Comment number 1434.

    Rather than come down hard on things like this, it's a shame councils and other leaders don't make more of an issue about a more serious web-based problems in schools; malicious kids setting up fake facebook/blog pages in teachers' names and then posing as them to post filth and other offensive comments which are not only humiliating, but potentialy dangerous for the teachers who are targeted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1433.

    1409. Junglenews
    'How is bullying a 9 year old going to stop the press bullying the staff ?'

    Clearly you not understand the concept of bullying. Telling a child to stop doing a single activity does not constitute bullying. The press asking for catering staff to be sacked without bothering to check their facts is bullying.

    Do you agree with workplace bullying?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1432.

    @1410 "Sadly in Tory Britain" erm it's a LibDim constituency but good attempt at making excuses for councillors doing a half-arsed job and yet paying themselves the highest wages in the area with bonus and pensions attached.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1431.

    Typical UK, make a celebrity out of no hoper, karaoke singers but punish creative kids like this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1430.

    I loved school dinners, i iam 33 , so wasnt too long ago. it was always a proper ,eal, potatoes, meat, whether it was roast beef, chicken etc and plenty of veg, followed by desert. we ate really well. looking at the girls portions no wonder kids snack on junk food to keep going. BTW its a a bit bland looking, beige !!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1429.

    Well done everyone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1428.

    As George Bernard Shaw said,

    Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything

  • rate this

    Comment number 1427.

    And now she's raised £28,000 too. Well done Martha!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1426.

    Jolly good Martha. To stop your blog is censorship. The public needs to know. This is not against the catering staff but should be a wake up call to the caterers providing the meals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1425.

    Yes, throw the dinner ladies to the lions! How dare the evil totalitarian council try and look after their staff. She's only 9 for heaven's sake!

    To the lions. The lot of 'em. Make THEM the dinner, eh?

    Oh my giddy-aunt this country is so terrible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1424.

    Parents encouraging 9 year olds to have blogs, really need to think twice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1423.

    A U-turn when they realised they could not escape scrunity. If councils were held to account effectively they wouldn't behave in such a bullying fashion and the the standard of services would likely be higher, although only time will tell if the standard of school meals will improve in Argyll and Bute.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1422.

    1407. indiansummer42 "They have EVERY authority to tell a pupil not to do this"

    It would seem that quite a few people on here would disagree, so "EVERY authority" can't be right. It would be more accurate to say that they ASSUME they have every authority.

    Actually taxpayers have EVERY authority to demand accountability and public servants MUST remember they are just that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1421.

    I've been following this blog since the third entry and I have to say I've noticed a vast improvement in the meals with the publicity. The council obviously took note of the world-wide interest and acted on it. They should continue to make improvements and show other local councils how it is done, not try to do backwards.
    It is sad it took the blog of a child to spark this change though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1420.

    I am appalled at this news item. I was a school catering supervisor and I know from experience that the schools in Scotland DO NOT only supply the type of food this child is photographing , this is usually a snack item with a healthy option being the main meal. Fruit is very much encouraged. If she elects to eat this at lunch time I hope that her parents give her a balanced meal at night.!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1419.

    Go Martha !!!


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