25/Apr/2014 - Last News Update: 04:53

NeverSeconds blogger Martha Payne banned from taking school dinner photos

Category: Scotland

Published: 15th Jun 2012 11:37:25

A nine-year-old girl who became an internet hit after blogging about her school dinners has been banned from taking photographs of her meals.

Martha Payne, from Argyll, began publishing photographs of her Lochgilphead Primary School lunches on 30 April.

Her NeverSeconds blog got more than two million hits in just a few weeks.

Argyll and Bute Council said press coverage of the blog had led catering staff to fear for their jobs.

Martha gave each meal a 'food-o-meter' and health rating, and counted the number of mouthfuls it took her to eat it.

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. I was told that I could not take any more photos of my school dinners because of a headline in a newspaper today.

"I only write my blog not newspapers and I am sad I am no longer allowed to take photos. I will miss sharing and rating my school dinners and I'll miss seeing the dinners you send me too."

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 had been using the blog - which she started with the help of her father Dave - to raise money for the Mary's Meals charity.

An explanatory note posted on the blog by her father read: "Martha's school have been brilliant and supportive from the beginning and I'd like to thank them all.

The decision, according to her father, was not taken by the school, which has been very supportive, but by the Argyll and Bute council.

It's not quite clear why - perhaps there is a ban on taking photos inside schools, or maybe there is some concern about the damage to the reputation of the school meals service.

I prefer to think there is another explanation - and that this is all a cunning plan by the councillors to draw attention to their beautiful region with its dramatic coastline, and fine cuisine.

It seems to be working - the case of the banned blog is rapidly becoming a cause celebre, with emails, tweets, and presumably phone calls arriving at council headquarters from around the world.

"I contacted Argyll and Bute Council when Martha told me what happened at school today and they told me it was their decision to ban Martha's photography.

"It is a shame that a blog that today went through 2 million hits, which has inspired debates at home and abroad and raised nearly £2,000 for charity is forced to end."

Mr Payne later told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme his daughter was not happy about the council's decision.

He added: "I can see that the photographs at the start didn't look the most appetising, but Martha marked the last school meal 10 out of 10.

"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."

In a statement released on its website, Argyll and Bute Council claimed media coverage of the blog had led catering staff to fear for their jobs.

It added: "The council has directly avoided any criticism of anyone involved in the 'never seconds' blog for obvious reasons despite a strongly-held view that the information presented in it misrepresented the options and choices available to pupils.

"However this escalation means we had to act to protect staff from the distress and harm it was causing.

"In particular, 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.

"There have been discussions between senior council staff and Martha's father however, despite an acknowledgement that the media coverage has produced these unwarranted attacks, he intimated that he would continue with the blog.

"The council has had no complaints for the last two years about the quality of school meals other than one from the Payne family received on 6 June and there have been no changes to the service on offer since the introduction of the blog."

Martha's blog was featured by media across the globe, with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver tweeting: "Shocking but inspirational blog. Keep going, big love from Jamie x."

After hearing about the ban, Oliver tweeted on Friday morning: "Stay strong Martha" before urging his 2.3 million followers to retweet the message to show their support for the schoolgirl.

Among the pictures she published 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?"

The apparent decision to ban Martha from taking photographs has been criticised by Scotland's Education Secretary Mike Russell, who is also the MSP for Argyll and Bute.

On his Twitter account, the MSP for Argyll and Bute said: "I think the decision is daft and I will be asking the council chief executive to reverse it."

Can you remember your school dinners? We'd like to see pictures of your school meals. Send your images to yourpics@bbc.co.uk or text them to 61124 (UK) or +44 7624 800 100 (International). If you have a large file you can upload here. Read the terms and conditions.

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BBC News, 2012. NeverSeconds blogger Martha Payne banned from taking school dinner photos [Online] (Updated 15th Jun 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1434833/NeverSeconds-blogger-Martha-Payne-banned-from-taking-school-dinner-photos [Accessed 25th Apr 2014]

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