Martha Payne's 'NeverSeconds' blog photos ban lifted
Published Jun 15 2012, 15:16 BST | By Andrew Laughlin
The ban on a 9-year-old girl taking photos of her school meals for a blog has been lifted, following a protest campaign on Twitter. Martha Payne
, from Argyll, used the NeverSeconds
blog to document and rate the quality of food at her school canteen.
But she was told by the school that she could no longer take photos of her meals and post them on the blog
, leading to outrage on microblogging site Twitter.
Argyll and Bute Council said that after a picture from the blog appeared in the Daily Record
newspaper alongside the headline "Time to fire the dinner ladies...", catering staff at Lochgilphead Primary School had started to fear for their jobs.
However, Scotland's education secretary Mike Russell branded the ban "daft", and called for it to be overturned.
The protest campaign has prompted council leader Roddy McCuish to tell the BBC
that he ordered officials at the school to lift the ban immediately.
Payne started blogging about her school meals on April 30, quickly racking up more than two million hits with features such as the 'food-o-meter' and health ratings.
But she issued a post yesterday evening (June 14) saying that the school's headteacher had told her not to take any more photos for the blog.
"This morning (June 14) in maths I got taken out of class by my headteacher 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 [the Daily Record
] newspaper today," she wrote
"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."
In a note on the blog post, her father Dave said that the blog had helped to raise thousands of pounds for the Mary's Meals charity, and so it was a shame she couldn't continue.
"Martha's school have been brilliant and supportive from the beginning and I'd like to thank them all," he wrote.
"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 two million hits, which has inspired debates at home and abroad and raised nearly £2,000 for charity, is forced to end."
A Twitter campaign soon sprung up in support of Payne's blog, including celebrity chef Jamie Oliver tweeting: "Shocking but inspirational blog. Keep going, big love from Jamie x."
He later urged his 2.3m Twitter followers to retweet the message and show their support for Payne's cause.
Argyll and Bute Council had previously issued a statement saying that the blog had "misrepresented" the meal choice available to pupils at the school.
"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," it said.
"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."
Payne will now be able to continue blogging and taking photos of her school food. The publicity around the blog has also helped her to smash her £7,000 target in fundraising for the Mary's Meals charity. There have been pledges of more than £16,000 by Friday (June 15) lunchtime, up from £2,000.
A Mary's Meals spokesman said told the BBC that they had been "overwhelmed" by the support, which would help feed "some of the hungriest children in the world".
"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," they said.
"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."