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Argyll and Bute Council says it asked a Lochgilphead school girl to cease taking photos of her school meals for an online blog after catering staff at her school began to fear for their jobs.
A national press headline yesterday led to the council taking action to prevent photos of school meals being taken by Martha Payne, aged nine, for her school meals blog ‘Never Seconds’, which has had nearly two and a half million hits since it was started in April this year.
After huge on-line back-lash and further national media interest to Martha’s post on June 14 2012 saying that she would no longer be posting on her blog, Argyll and Bute Council issued this statement on June 15:
‘Argyll and Bute Council wholly refutes the unwarranted attacks on its schools catering service which culminated in national press headlines which have led catering staff to fear for their jobs.
‘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.
‘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.
‘Pupils have a daily choice of two meals from a menu which is designed with pupils, parents and teachers. Our summer menu is about to be launched and includes main course choices like meat or vegetarian lasagne served with carrots and garlic bread or chicken pie with puff pastry, mashed potato and mixed vegetables.
‘Pupils can choose from at least two meals every day. They pay £2 for two courses and this could be a starter and a main or a main and a desert. Each meal comes with milk or water. Pupils can have as much salad and bread as they want. Salad, vegetables, fruit, yoghurt and cheese options are available every day. These are standing options and are not a result of any changes in response to the blog site.
‘As part of the curriculum for excellence, pupils in all our schools are regularly taught about healthy eating and at lunch breaks staff encourage pupils to make good choices from what is on offer.
‘We use a system called ‘Nutmeg’ to make sure everything is nutritionally balanced. Our staff also get nutrition awareness training so they know how to provide a good healthy meal. There is portion sized guidance which we adhere to and it is matched to the age of the child so they get the right amount of food. Second portions would mean too many calories for pupils.
‘In Lochgilphead Primary School we are piloting a new pre-ordering scheme which is designed to encourage class discussion around meal choices and also improves the accuracy of meal choices. The pupils use a touch screen to select their lunch option and the data is downloaded in the kitchen so they know how many portions of each meal are required.
‘As they place their order, the pupils are given a coloured band which relates to their meal choice that day. They wear it during the morning, and at lunchtime they hand it to the catering assistant, who will give them the corresponding meal.
‘The Council’s focus is now on supporting the school in the education of young people in Argyll and Bute.’