Friday, 15 June 2012

Never, say Never to second looks - Argyll and Bute Update

Earlier today Argyll and Bute Council issued this statement in relation to their decision banning Martha Payne's taking pictures for her Never Seconds blog from yesterday.

Published Date:
15 Jun 2012 - 10:53

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.
What a difference two and half hours more careful consideration brought to the situation they have since changed that statement on the same page to this from the council leader

Published Date: 
15 Jun 2012 - 10:53
Updated: 14:19 - 15 June 2012

Statement from Cllr Roddy McCuish, Leader of Argyll and Bute Council

"There is no place for censorship in this Council and never will be whilst I am leader.   I  have advised senior officers that this Administration intends to clarify the Council's policy position in regard to taking photos in schools. I have therefore requested senior officials to consider immediately withdrawing the ban on pictures from the school dining hall until a report can be considered by Elected Members. This will allow the continuation of the "Neverseconds" blog written by an enterprising and imaginative pupil, Martha Payne which has also raised lots of money for charity.

But we all must also accept that there is absolutely no place for the type of inaccurate and abusive attack on our catering and dining hall staff, such as we saw in one newspaper yesterday which considerably inflamed the situation.  That, of course, was not the fault of the blog, but of the paper.

We need to find a united way forward so I am going to bring together our catering staff, the pupils, councillors and council officials - to ensure that the council continues to provide  healthy, nutrious and attractive school meals.  That "School Meals Summit" will take place later this summer.

 I will also meet Martha and her father as soon as I can, along with our lead councillor on Education, Michael Breslin to seek her continued engagement, along with lots of other pupils, in helping the council to get this issue right.   By so doing Martha Payne and her friends  will have had a strong and lasting influence not just on school meals, but on the whole of Argyll & Bute."

This statement supersedes all other council statements on the matter already issued.
You somehow think that if the latter statement had been the way the council decided to proceed on this matter intially, listening to Martha and other children about the state of school meals under their influence that maybe people would never have heard of Argyll and Bute. Some would still think it is spelt Argyle or something to do with Plymouth, and Martha would not have soured to her target by over 400% of fundraising for Mary's Meals most of that in the last 24 hours.

But seeing as the council leader says there "There is no place for censorship in this Council and never will be whilst [he is] leader" before totally replacing the previous disingenuous statement with his own, I'm sure he won't mind me copying them both here in full. I only do that so that we can see how someone in the press departments knee jerk reaction was so poorly letting down the children and end users of school meals provision earlier today.

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