Council’s U-turn on school meals blog ban

ARGYLL and Bute Council has reversed its decision to ban a nine-year-old Lochgilphead Primary pupil from taking pictures of her school meals.

Martha Payne’s NeverSeconds blog had become an internet sensation since she began publishing pictures and health ratings of her school meals in April.

Martha had posted an entry to her ‘NeverSeconds’ blog on Thursday, under the heading ‘Goodbye’, announcing that her head teacher had told her she could no longer take photographs of her meals “because of a headline in a newspaper that day”.

The decision, made after a tabloid newspaper published a story on the subject of Martha’s blog beneath the headline ‘Time to fire the dinner ladies’, provoked a huge outcry on social media websites - and prompted the council to announce on Friday afternoon that it was overturning the photo ban.

The authority said in a statement that it had avoided any criticism of the NeverSeconds blog “despite a strongly held view that the information presented in it misrepresented the options and choices available to pupils”, and that it had felt the need to act “to protect staff from the distress and harm it was causing”.

“In particular,” the statement said, “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.”

The council also said the only complaint about the quality of school meals in Lochgilphead in the last two years had been one received from the Payne family on June 6, and that there had been no changes to the service on offer since Martha began her blog.

Council leader Roddy McCuish criticised the “inaccurate and abusive” tabloid coverage of the story and has promised that a ‘school meals summit’ will be held during the summer to try and improve the choices available to pupils.

Ironically the ratings Martha gave her school meals had been improving notably in recent weeks after some of her initial posts - in particular for a cheeseburger and a slice of pizza in early May - attracted both poor ratings from Martha and outrage from the blog’s readers.

Martha had also been using the blog to help raise money for the Argyll-based Mary’s Meals charity - and the publicity caused by the ban led to total pledges rocketing from around £2,000 on Thursday evening to £25,226.80 at the time of writing.