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Schoolgirl blogger can continue after council U-turn

15 June 2012 by
Schoolgirl blogger can continue after council U-turn

Argyll and Bute Council has lifted the ban on schoolgirl blogger Martha Payne taking photos of her school meals.

The student had became an overnight sensation with her daily posts on school dinners, but after press attention led to catering staff to fear for their jobs the council slapped a ban on photography.

This ban has now been overturned by council leader Roddy McCuish after a public outcry, the BBC has reported.

It said that local MSP Mike Russell, Scotland's education secretary, had written to the council's chief executive calling for the ban to be overturned.

Payne, who attends a primary school in Arygll, launched her Never Seconds blog on 30 April, and immediately began attracting a world-wide following. Alongside her honest thoughts and images of her daily lunch, she also shared photographs of schools meals sent to her from around the globe.

Caterer and Hotelkeeper published an extract from the blog on 8 June, when nine-year-old Payne shared with readers the news that she had been invited to a meeting by celebrity chef Nick Nairn. "I'm really looking forward to meeting him if I can go," she wrote.

The meeting took place on Wednesday and it appears that Argyll and Bute Council took the original decision to ban Payne's photographs after the Daily Record ran a story about the visit under the headline "Time to fire the dinner ladies".

In a statement to the press this morning, the council refuted any criticism of its schools catering service in the Daily Record story, which, it was claimed, "has led catering staff to fear for their jobs."

Although the council said it had avoided criticising anyone involved in the Never Seconds blog, "despite a strongly held view that the information presented in it misrepresented the options and choices available to pupils", it said that it had now 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."

The statement went on to say that it had received no complaints for the past two years about the quality of school meals, other than one from the Payne family, received on 6 June.

Yesterday Payne wrote what appeared to be her last post, titled Goodbye, in which she explains that she had been told by her head teacher that she would not be allowed to take any more photos of her school dinners.

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

Her father, Dave Payne, subsequently wrote: "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."

Through Never Seconds, Payne was raising money for Mary's Meals, an international movement that sets up school feeding projects in communities where poverty and hunger prevent children from gaining an education. Since the story broke that photographs to her blog had been banned, donations have been boosted to more than £25,000.

It now seems as though her charitable blogging can continue.

School meals blogger Martha Payne banned from taking photographs >>

Northumberland pub supplies local school meals >>

Sandwell Council planning to turn school meals over to not-for-profit co-op >>

By Janet Harmer

E-mail your comments to Janet Harmer here.

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