Council overturns ban on child's school dinner blog NeverSeconds

Jun 15, 2012
Hollie Clemence

After claiming Martha Payne's blog was 'causing harm', Argyll and Bute Council retracts its ban

ARGYLL AND BUTE Council has overturned its ban on nine-year-old Martha Payne’s school dinners blog hours after claiming that it was causing “harm and distress” to catering staff.  

The schoolgirl, from Argyll in western Scotland, earned worldwide praise for her blog on which she posted pictures of her school dinners and rated them out of ten under her 'Food-o-meter'.

NeverSeconds attracted more than two million hits, sparking debate about the state of school dinners and raising more than £2,000 for Scottish charity Mary's Meals, which feeds schoolchildren in the Third World.

Payne had drawn comparisons with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who had sent her a copy of his book with the message: "Dear Martha, great work!!! Clever girl. Lots of love. Jamie O. XXX Keep it up!!"

But on Thursday Argyll and Bute Council banned her from posting pictures on the blog because of the negative publicity they had received.

Payne explained on her blog: "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."

Under the headline "goodbye", she added: "I will miss sharing and rating my school dinners and I'll miss seeing the dinners you send me too.

"I don't think I will be able to finish raising enough money for a kitchen for Mary's Meals either."

Her announcement has angered her fans, with readers as far as New Zealand and America registering complaints with the council about the decision.

One commenter wrote on the blog: "To Argyll and Bute Council: It is entirely too bad you could not accept this blog as constructive - and needed - criticism, that you have decided that it is easier to order this young woman about than it is to accept responsibility for feeding children less well than you could do."

In a statement published on their website today, the council says it "wholly refutes the unwarranted attacks on its schools catering service" which it says "culminated in national press headlines which have led catering staff to fear for their jobs".

It adds: "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."

However, council leader Roddy McCuish has since told the BBC that he has instructed senior officials to lift the ban immediately.

[School dinner image via Shutterstock]

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Doesn't this girl have rights? What if she wanted to tell her parents, can she? What if she wanted to "show" her parents? This is orwellian at best, and I come from the über orwellian universe of Hugo Chávez