This morning I was doing my usual trip through the BBC News website when I came across a story headlined NeverSeconds blogger Martha Payne banned from taking school dinner photos. I had never heard of Martha Payne or her blog and I couldn’t quite work out why anyone would be bothered about her taking a photo of her school dinner. I mean, I’ve taken a photo of a Cadbury’s Creme egg and posted it on Facebook and not much happened to me.
Naturally curious I decided to visit this all powerful blog which Argyll and Bute Council seemed to think threatened their entire existence. Having read through it I’m now even more surprised about the Council’s reaction. It’s well written and isn’t a heavy handed critique of school lunches – in fact she’s rated some of them 10/10 and 9/10 so hardly a vendetta. What seems to have set the proverbial cat among the pigeons (not on the lunch menu) is that she spent some time with Nick Nairn and the Daily Record posted a story with the rather more adversarial headline of ‘Time to fire the dinner ladies’. Now bear in mind that through all this the school had been supportive of what she had been doing, it was the council who decided to get heavy handed. Martha’s final post, together with an added comment from her father, explains why she has stopped posting.
What could have been used as a positive example has now turned into a PR firestorm for Argyll and Bute Council. The story is being covered by a wide range of media, as I write this it is trending on Twitter and the posts are hardly supportive of their position. The Council have now posted a statement which appears to making things worse. By accusing Martha of ‘misrepresenting’ the options available they seem to have forgotten that she is a pupil at the school reporting on her lunch NOT an employee of the council marketing their menu options.
It is certainly a clear demonstration that the Council have no idea of the power of the internet – they certainly don’t appear to have thought through the consequences of their actions. And it seems fairly clear that they haven’t taken advice before publishing their statement – as the adage goes – when in a hole, stop digging.
They also say ‘it’s an ill wind that blows no good’ and in addition to reporting on her lunch, Martha was also helping to raise funds for Mary’s Meals – a charity provides meals to children in deprived areas of the world – these are delivered in a place of learning so that they not only get a decent meal but also education which can act as a ladder out of poverty. Martha’s target was £7000, which probably seemed like an enormous amount when she started. All the publicity that she has received now means that it is standing at over £14,400 and rising faster than I can type – if you’d like to add your support you can do here.
I hope that this won’t put Martha off reporting and writing – she shows a lot of promise together with a desire to help others less fortunate than herself and you can’t knock that. Hopefully we’ll see her back blogging before too long.
15 June 2012, 13:51 Update: It seems that the ban has now been overturned – a triumph for common sense! Oh, and the fundraising for Mary’s Meals is now at £20,522.60 (although it will no doubt be higher by the time I hit ‘update’!