Is it my imagination or was there not …

Comment posted Lochgilphead primary pupil’s internet exposure of poor school meals goes viral by Paula Jones.

Is it my imagination or was there not a post 41 here which seems to have been removed. Oh wait, you never remove posts do you?????????????

Paula Jones also commented

  • Naughty boy Michael, grow up.

Recent comments by Paula Jones

  • Argyll and Bute Council settle expensively with former Communications Manager
    Having watched all this from a distance I have just thought of it as something of a non story. I know The Herald and FA broke the news that spy accounts were in place and FA further expanded on this, saying several were operating (proof of which you could have handed over to the enquiry when it was taking place). A position FA still maintains. Yet I and everyone else has yet to see any evidence of these accounts and Smith was found to be innocent of all the allegations made against her. So in order to agree with FA on this can you show us some cast iron evidence that these spy accounts existed please Newsie? Aside from the original Powerpoint, which we all know has the words spy accounts on them, which to me is not admitting setting up spy accounts. Otherwise i am afraid you and everybody else who believed this have been well and truly duped and your source was an out and out liar.
  • Jo Smith dismissed as Council Communications Manager
    Ferryman,someone posted the no spy accounts comment, which was taken from a news website. FA never had any evidence apart from the seemingly fake anonymous source. She continues with the line that Smith admitted to carrying out covert activity, whereas ten people, yes ten people, named, out in the open, attendees of the conference say she said no such thing. Who would you believe?
  • Jo Smith dismissed as Council Communications Manager
    Oh Newsie Newsie Newsie. How you insult your remaining readers intelligence. Your rewriting of history is worthy of Stalin. I notice how you have been through all your articles on the *Spygate* thread and removed all your personal attacks on Ms Smith
  • Jo Smith dismissed as Council Communications Manager
    Yes indeed Newsroom, you never made up the whole Spygate thing.
  • Jo Smith dismissed as Council Communications Manager
    I think you could argue that quite strongly Justin. It looks to me as if Ms Smith has been a victim of a dirty tricks campaign and has been hung out to dry. The other two from what i have i think their behaviour was foolish and immature but not a sackable offence.

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83 Responses to Is it my imagination or was there not …

  1. Who – I wonder – in the Education Department would be best qualified to explain the difference between the meals in these photos and the meal on the ‘Eatwell plate’ in the ‘Healthy Hub’ section of the Lochgilphead Joint Campus website?

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  2. I must confess to be shocked when I saw this. As a scientist I immediately ask if this is a representative sample of the meals at Lochgilphead (and I’m going to be going to have a look at what turns up at Barcaldine tomorrow). We are also looking at a self-selected menu which may have biased things (note the mention that peas had been turned down).

    However, having said all that, the pictures are not suggestive of a healthy balanced lunch and I suspect all parents in Argyll are going to be concerned seeing these.

    An ice lolly would seem to have no place on a child’s menu and the amount of corn on one of the plates seemed remarkably skimpy. I would be interested in knowing how many calories those meals represent (don’t seem likely to cause obesity at any rate!).

    My other concern is the mention of the children being hassled to finish their meals within ten minutes. This is a dreadful lesson to give to young children. Eating food too quickly is a classic route to indigestion and long term eating problems. This needs looking at and urgently.

    Congratulations to Martha on her project and her excellent writing.

    I look forward to seeing what ABC’s reaction to this is and soon.

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  3. So “The Schools (Health Promotion and Nutrition) (Scotland) Act 2007″, and “The Nutritional Requirements for Food and Drink in Schools (Scotland) Regulations 2008″
    really worked well then. Not.

    I am not berating the politicians for their intentions, which I am sure were honourable. But to believe that this was the way to bring about improvements was naïve, in my view.

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  4. I would be interested in what neighbouring local authorities are feeding our kids, perhaps West Dunbartonshire and say another rural authority like Highlands.

    Totally appalling in this day and age though that our kids are fed such poor lunches. Is Scotland part of the third world?

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  5. These pics look exactly like the lunches my children were offered at primary school. High fat, high salt, refined sugar. The Doc is right, there’s no place for ice lollies on a school menu, except as a cheap and nasty menu-filler. ( I do like the look of the pasta and soup combo though, much better.) I used to send them with packed lunches – sandwich & fruit – but this provoked much eye-rolling from the dinner ladies. At one point we were sent letters asking us to help support jobs in the school kitchen by buying school lunches – I quoted the potato croquette/cheap fish finger option in my defence.
    I do worry about the effect this exposure will have on Martha though…..

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  6. Just remember that these “Menus” were promulgated from Dunoon, created by people probably with no background of preparing and serving school meals. Once again no notice was taken of the experience and practical knowledge of the much respected “Dinner Ladies”

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  7. We are all interested in promoting Scotland as a great land of food and drink, extolling the virtues of our great food production. Surely this is what our children should be getting? Local produce, freshly and simply prepared. More fruit, fresh bread.

    If I showed this to any of my French colleagues I suspect they would not know whether to laugh or cry.

    We can surely do better than this.

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  8. Douglas, there’s no shortage of such positive, worthwhile aspiration. Indeed, this sort of vision gets wide-spread buy-in. And a good thing that is, too.

    What we lack is the abundance of talent it takes to get us there. Think roads paved with good intentions, and all that.

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  9. Does anyone else remember being told that having hot food prepared within the school was an educational benefit?

    In all seriousness though this is a very important issue however we should be wary of making any assumptions about the quality (and quantity) of school dinners across A&B based on this one story (not saying anyone is). Fingers crossed this is an issue that is not widespread and largely isolated to LJC and maybe a small number of other schools.

    This will make finding a solution far easier as lessons can be learned from other schools who are delivering a much better school meal ‘experience’ and they can be applied to those who are seemingly failing.

    Talk of kids being encouraged to rush their dinner is not great surprise when you see the size of the canteen and then the size of the school roll. It is symptomatic of ill thought strategy and poor planning. Just like in the proposal to merge Garelochhead, Rosneath an Kilcreggan primary schools where the Garelochhead canteen was painfully too small and there was talk of having as many as three staggered lunch hours plus an additional room being used for packed lunch kids.

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  10. Good on the girl for reporting it, a lot of adults thesedays need to take a good long look at themselves and the opportunities they had and stop slamming the door behind them at every turn. Rural schools = frozen, processed food. Lazy.

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    • “Rural schools= frozen, processed food. Lazy”

      Sorry, I have to take issue with your analogy. Our local primary for eg. gives a very balanced and nutritious lunch meal….I can testify to that! One day a week is open to adults to join the children and have lunch. There is also a weekly meal list for the children to choose.
      Too much generalising. They’re not all the same.

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      • It’s amazing that Councillor Isobel Strong and Councillor Anne Horn , both of whom tried to deny 5 year olds a daily school lunch in some of Kintyre’s small rural schools have been promoted in the new so called ‘progressive’ administration . I don’t know what’s progressive about denying 5 year olds a school lunch .

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          • By proposing to close the kitchens at the schools and making no provision for any alternatives . Thankfully , the parents ran a fantastic campaign and got the proposal overturned at the 11th hour .

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          • Islay, care to give dates and schools please so I can double check? I’d lay the lives of my kids on it that Anne Horn would be at the forefront of any campaign to protect children or their rights and Isobel Strong would be right behind her. Anne’s vote indicated that the people of Kintyre and the Islands have great faith in her too.

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          • The Council voted *unanimously* for its 2009/10 budget which included provision to remove school meals from Rhunahaorine, Glenbarr, Skipness, Lochdonhead, Lismore and Kilchattan. Isobel Strong chaired the education committee at that time, as at the time the SNP and Alliance councillors were in coalition. Asleep at the wheel, I would say.
            The councillors then confessed to not really understanding what they had voted to do, so reversed the decision, one that was intended to save £40,000. It is all documented here,
            As a candidate at the recent election, Anne, I am surprised you are so unaware of these important recent local events.

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        • But Anne, it *did* see the light of day. Anne Horn, Isobel Strong and *all* the councillors voted to close these six school kitchens. Did you even read the link I provided? They were all culpable, and everyone locally knows that. Most of the councillors themselves even admitted they made a mistake.

          Blind, partisan defence of your own party colleagues, while your are evidently ignorant of the key facts, does your cause no favours.

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          • Mairi, Anne Horn would never ever knowingly let down a child and when she sees a problem she’s always the first to run up the flag. The end result, where those services were kept in place, is entirely in keeping with that. I was not involved as I was very unwell at the time, but at no point would I ever fear for children while Anne Horn is on the case. Mistakes are indeed made, but are only culpable where you leave them unfixed. She fixed this.

            I am honest about my party colleagues. Some are better than others in my opinion and they always know what I think, but Anne is universally respected and known to be always on the side of the vulnerable. 652 voters also know it.

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  11. Have had a look at the 4-weekly menus for primary pupils in LJC. I have to say that bread and fruit seem to be available every day, as is a hot meal option. Baked potatoes with various fillings are available every day. Soup is available every 3rd day.Pizza only appears once in 4 weeks; burgers 3 times; hot dogs once. I think, with the right choices, pupils could eat a healthy, balanced meal of starter + main hot meal + bread or main hot meal + bread + fruit from what is on offer. However, perhaps the menus have changed?

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  12. Barmore: As I said in my first post, we have to be careful about jumping to conclusions based on these photos as they may not be representative of what is actually available in either variety or quantity. The menu does sound OK (though portion size might also be an issue).

    This has raised concerns though so I am still looking forward to hearing ABC’s take on things.

    On a wider front though, perhaps this is a good spark to a debate as to what our children should be eating in Argyll’s schools and how we ensure this gives them the best nutritional input. No point spending lots of time and effort teaching them about healthy foods if their schools meals don’t match up to the message.

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    • There’s a third photo in the Daily mail story that looks a bit healthier than the two pictures that have the limelight, so is the menu quality too uneven from day to day, or are kids free to select more – or less – healthy combinations from a wider menu?

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  13. Looks like a very pertinent item for our new council to get its teeth into. I am aware of other Argyll schools where the food is apparently very good. Perhaps our new councillors will not have to look outside the county for best practise.

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  14. I know this school very well, and I know that the school kitchen has to follow guide lines, therefore the menus are set for them. Baked potatoes are served every day, and the choice of salad is fantastic.
    The food is made fresh every day. I don’t know what all the fuss is about.

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  15. About time the education system becomes open and transparent, I have had issues with the Education Department in the past and takes months for simple issues to be resolved. Bottom line is we pay for it.

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    • Interesting John. Would you have had dealings with the “Quality Improvement” Team?

      Please feel free to email if you have had issues.

      Back on the subject of school dinners…

      My daughter did attend a busy primary school in Primary 1 and lunches there had to be done in 3 sittings. Fine unless you were in the last sitting.

      My daughter would complain often of there not being much left to choose from and sometimes, no choice at all. Some dinners were literally made up of whatever they had left and if you can imagine 2 sittings of kids already choosing, whatever was leftover was always the most horrible thing available.

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  16. It makes me shudder to think that A&B Council tried to shut our school in Minard, condemning the kids to a miserable “lunch” as well as the disadvantages of a factory-farm style education. I’m SO glad we fought the closure proposals tooth and nail, and won.

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  17. I am really glad that I know this lassie gets fabulously home grown food at home..
    What about the kids who don’t have such good parents?
    Talking to other kids parents today about this in the North of Argyll, it seems that other schools can be equally parsimonious, but that packed lunches for high school are not so easy as there are no lockers at the school. So food has to be carried around all morning with sports kit, all books, jotters et al. And there is nowhere to eat it !
    FOOD and health in our schools is clearly a vital issue for the new administration.
    Again some transparency is needed… lets get more of the school menu’s online and visible.

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  18. Have just listened in disbelief to Malcolm McFadyen on radio Scotland who procalimed that the child in question had “made the wrong choices”. !! Is it just me??? I know that my children are not permitted to bring “unhealthy snacks” to school and if I sent them with a packed lunch full of rubbish I am sure I would hear about it. Yet this man thinks it is ok to OFFER nutritionally inadequate food to nine year olds because it is up to them to make the right choices (presumably rejecting the unhealthy food). I shall say this slowly… Don’t. Offer. The. Unhealthy. Food.
    And Mr McFadyen’s assertion that parent’s should do as he does and discuss dietry choices with their children…. This beggars belief and is nothing but a thinly veiled dig at Martha’s parents.

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    • You have to remember that this is the same Malcolm McFadyen who pronounced himself satisfied that it is safe for tiny primary children to walk to school from Arrochar to Tarbet, under the highly dangerous pinch point of the rail bridge over the busy, truck ridden A83.

      This man exists in an alternative universe called Kilmory. We can only hope that the new administration imposes a ‘common sense test’ on all decisions.

      The further political decisions move away from common sense the more they discredit politics and alienate voters from the democratic process.

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      • Oh I have dealt with Mr McFadyen over my own childrens’ primary school transport. A route which was deemed unsafe in 2008 was then deemed safe for all pupils 2 years later with NO changes to the route at all. It will be interesting to see how this one pans out.
        And a further point on the school meals question… We are now charged £2 per meal in schools yet the Head of Facilities Services seems to be recommending that children should reject the unhealthy choices. Why not save money and offer only healthy food than recommend that your customers reject some of the food on offer? As a business woman I can’t see me paying to produce 2 products and then advising my customers to only choose one of them. Another example of the way ABC would fail so dismally in the corporate world.

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    • Lets face it, after seeing his responses during the school closures debacle, McFadyen will say whatever he needs to to support which particular conclusion has been made, even if it means tampering with the evidence (ie Rosneath/Kilcreggan Telematics)

      Wonder how he will get on under a new transparent Administration.

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      • Sounds like Malcolm McFadyen will be first on the list for a meeting with Councillor Louise Glen-Lee, regarding his abysmal performance on national radio and Councillor Mary Jean Devon regarding his appalling attempt to blame a nine year old school pupil for “making the wrong choices.”

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    • I am actually delighted that Malcolm McFadyen made remarks along those lines (I didn’t hear the broadcast so am wary of putting too many words in his mouth – would be very interested in hearing exactly what he said to avoid any accusations of paraphrasing o taking things out of context).

      The reason I am delighted is because if he has pretty much said ‘It’s the child’s fault for choosing that option’ then it blows this issue up into something that is far more significant than what could have been an issue isolated to one school. This delights me because it highlights a fundamental lack of understanding and intelligence at Head of Service level which really pinpoints the root cause of the problem (rather than there being a risk that people far lower down the food chain get scapegoated).

      It also highlights that the problem lies at a level where there is potential impact across Argyll rather than at unit level and this makes it far more important that it is tackled firmly, transparently and quickly.

      Finally it again shows that within the top branches of A&B there is a culture of ‘everyone’s fault but ours’

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  19. Nice! Lets blame the 9 year old, words fail me.
    It’s also all very well to talk of national standards and guidelines but when kids are left hungry surely they need to be looking at those again? None of my children are overweight but they do have healthy appetites, fairly often wont go for a choice they like because they know they’ll be hungry after it, when paying the amount i do for a dinner (£1.85) the least is expect is for my kids to not be left hungry.
    Leaving children as young as 5 to make informed choices about their lunch is as daft as allowing them to choose whether or not they do any work at school, they don’t do that so….
    Preaching about healthy lunches is great but when they are russling up chips when the other option has run out isn’t exactly healthy. :/
    When i phoned to have a discussion with the suppliers, the attitude i got was shocking, very abrubt and practically accusing me of lying.
    I have bigger fish to fry in regards to the school so i dropped it, i may send the kids in with a camera though. ;)

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  20. OK found it and listened to it. Fair to say that there is little room for interpretation. Malcolm McFadyen is pretty clear that he blames the child for making that choice and that he is happy with the quality of the meals provided by the Council, that they meet standards and that they encourage discussions about meal choices in classrooms.

    Early on when he first puts the blame on Martha for making that choice Kaye Adams bluntly states ‘She is 9 years old’

    Pretty pathetic really. I guess if the school library was equally stacked with good quality books designed to help kids develop reading and English but also Japanese manga comics and all the kids ever read was the manga comics then the Council would wash its hands of any responsibility for that as well.

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  21. The level of maturity Mr McFadyen displays in his comments is depressing. He is the adult here for goodness sake and blaming a 9 year old girl. Shameful.

    Perhaps Martha didn’t have any other choice, if she was in the last sitting of the dinners those days, that might have been all that was left.

    I’ll say it again – Shameful. Shame on you Mr McFadyen.

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  22. Nothing Mr McFadyen said can justify the photographic evidence. He obviously was unhappy during the inteerview and with his voice quivering right through and thus he demonstrated just how shaky a wicket he was guarding.
    Keep guarding your shaky wicket Malcolm because this abusive policy will be in the headlights until it is sorted. School food should be nutritional adequately sized and sourced, prepared and cooked locally. Not deep fried bought-in pizzas and ice lollys. You should consider your position before your boss does.

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  23. In the interests of research, I’ve just been to Barcaldine to see what was on offer for lunch. I went in my role as Chair of the Parent Council and with the permission of the HT in case anyone thinks they can just wander into our schools looking for a free meal!

    Primary preparation of food is made at Lochnell primary then the meals driven out to Barcaldine where any secondary preparation is made and the food served.

    The system is that a monthly menu is prepared for the next period – see here:

    The weans then choose between the various options and this is related back to the school so that only the meals actually ordered by the weans are delivered. If the weans don’t fancy any of the options of a specific day then they can bring in a packed lunch.

    By the kindness of the dinner lady I was able to sample what was on offer (ie I ate her lunch!). Today wasn’t perhaps the healthiest on offer (at least in terms of the main courses) in that the two options were a burger in a roll or an omelette. Most of the weans went for the burger, as I did. The burger itself tasted fine. Accompanying the burger were peas and potato wedges. Both were in plentiful supply and both tasted good – the peas in particular were firm and lightly cooked so no soggy overcooked peas here. With the omelette, the weans could have the peas and wedges but also cheese (though this was also offered to the burger eaters).

    The pudding was either a yoghurt or a buttered pancake with jam if they wanted it. For drinks the children could either have a glass of water or a carton of milk. The children were served individually then the dinner lady came round and offered all of them additional salad and chopped fruit. The salad was good: a mix of leaves, tomatoes, chopped peppers and pickled onions and beetroot were also available (and eaten!). The fruit was either a slice of melon or orange. Bread was also freely available. The weans were invited up for seconds.

    I found the food good to eat and was pretty full by the end of it. The children were not rushed at all and most took about 30 minutes to finish their lunch (from the start of serving to them all finishing). The food looked attractive, was fresh and there was plenty of it. I thought it was good value for £2 per meal.

    I asked the children about the food and they felt that portion sizes had improved of late (they put this down to the previous P7′s being ravenous locusts!) and they had no complaints about either the variety or the amount available.

    Talking to the teachers, they reckoned the food was good but bemoaned the loss of the free fruit that they used to receive which could be used as an educational aid (as well as a valuable source of nutrition!). The presence of fruit on the menu was very welcome but cannot be used to make smoothies (for instance) for the whole class.

    Looking over the menu more generally, there are occasional things that are questionable (ice lollies for one) but these are more than balanced up by the presence of fruit, fresh bread and salads. Having looked over arrangements at Barcaldine, I am satisfied that feeding arrangements are not just adequate but good and represent good value for money at £2 per meal.

    In short, a very different picture from that making the headlines.

    (thanks to the staff and pupils at Barcaldine for making me welcome this lunchtime)

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  24. Aww, no pictures Douglas … Martha will be disappointed with you ;)

    Seriously, this is good news. Two down … lots more to be checked/ audited. Though the message will have gone out to all to ‘buck up’.

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    • I did take pictures but there is no facility to load these directly onto FA. If FA want to support a page showing typical meals then I’m happy to contribute my pictures to them.

      I would encourage all the other PA chairs to do the same as I did(and perhaps on a regular but random basis). I think we as parents have a responsibility to ensure that our children are being well fed and to have the reassurance that they are.

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        • Dr McKenzie – I’m afraid I disagree with you about how suitable the meal was at Barcaldine school. It certainly looks as if it is cooked well, with good portions and I’m sure it tasted really nice, but is it appropriate for primary school kids or the menu of a roadside cafe?

          For a lot of children this will be the only hot meal they have each day, is a meal high in sugars (bun), processed meat of unknown origin(burger), fats (chips) and a tablespoon of peas really acceptable.

          I’m sure the dinner ladies at Barcaldine do a great job of encouraging the kids to eat the fruit and salad available but in the bigger schools they aren’t able to do this for all sorts of reasons. Would it not be more sensible to have the ‘healthy’ part of meal actually included in the meal instead of being seen as some sort of add-on which neither encourages or promotes healthy eating.

          Looking at Martha’s pictures and Barcaldine’s, I would suggest that maybe Mr McFadyen should consider a serious revision of the school menu.

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          • Scruff: I did say that this wasn’t the most healthy of the various meals on the menu but it what was on today. Have a look at the other choices on the monthly menu.

            Without analysing the food it is difficult to give you a break down of the nutritional balance but the burger wasn’t fatty, the bun appeared fresh and it was potato wedges not chips: lower fat as they are not fried. I cannot comment on the salt content except to say that it did not taste particularly salty (we don’t normally cook with salt so we tend to be sensitive to it in prepared foods), nor was I noticeably thirsty afterwards.

            Because of the advanced booking system then parents have the option of a packed lunch if they don’t like any of the choices and they can opt in or out on a daily basis.

            Presentation is important with food and teh plates at Barcaldine certainly looked more appealing than Martha’s pizza and solitary croquet. and a crucial difference was that the children at Barcaldine were not complaining about their food whereas Martha was. The portions were good (Martha complained she wasn’t getting enough) and they had plenty of time to eat their lunch (Martha complained she was being rushed).

            I would love to see all our weans sitting down to some Aberdeen Angus fillets, sea bass and perhaps some stuffed aubergines but that is probably asking a bit too much! If the weans were sitting down to burgers and wedgies every meal I would be concerned but you have to look at the meals in relation to the whole menu and remember that there was also fresh salad, bread and fruit available pretty much ad libitum.

            The pictures showed what the children had chosen so the amount of peas were what they wanted and there were plenty left over.

            Could the menu be improved? yes, of course but am I concerned over its overall balance and sufficiency? No, not really.

            Your last point was about the difference between small schools and large schools and I have to agree. The small school can deliver the attention to individual needs that is often lost in the large “super” primaries. Question is, how can we produce a small school ethos in the large schools in relation to eating? I think many of the problems that Martha’s project highlighted seem to relate to the mechanics of feeding so many children in such a short time: this tends to make it a fuelling exercise rather than a dining experience.

            What I would criticise is ABC’s handling of this whole episode. Rather than use the furore to show what was really available, the ABC spokesperson decided to shoot the messenger. When the messenger is a cute nine year old you have to marvel at the sheer gormlessness of our council’s communications effort.

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  25. My daughter attends Glenbarr ps. Each child is given a weekly menu sheet with 2 choices. This ensures that parents can see at a glance what their child is being offered. On a Monday they pick their individual meal. The meals are made on the premises by a lovely lady called Helen ( she also drives the school bus and does the cleaning!)

    When the funding for the childrens fruit was stopped, the Parent Council decided to invite local parents and friends to join the kids at one lunchtime a week. The benefits have been amazing, with a great uptake and as a result there is plenty of fruit and the interaction is brilliant.
    (By the way, Helen’s lentil soup is to die for!)

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  26. My kids went to Southend Primary School and so loved the school dinners I had to work on a new menu for home. If my offering was something they at in school, I was invariably told it wasn’t as good.

    Not only did they get good portions of nutritious well cooked food, they also had food themes for times of the year e.g. Halloween. Lessons on geography or history were augmented by lunches with an African or Roman flavour. The cook is still there so I expect it’s the same now.

    Poor Martha has obviously had the short straw food wise, but I have no doubt she has a great future ahead of her as a journalist. I just hope Mr McFadyen is held to account for his appalling attempt to blame her, and then her parents, for what is clearly a problem of the council’s making. From any point of view he’s done himself, the council and Argyll & Bute a disservice.

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  27. Anne, you haven’t responded to the school kitchen closure issue you commented on at #11 above. You doubted it happened at all, questioning and saying you would:
    “… double check? I’d lay the lives of my kids on it that Anne Horn would be at the forefront of any campaign to protect children or their rights and Isobel Strong would be right behind her.”

    It might be nice if you shared with us what your double-checking revealed.

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      • Anne, I didn’t single out Anne Horne: I called them *all* out for voting to close school kitchens. Anne no more ‘saved’ the kitchens by reversing their own appalling decision than any other councillor who voted to overturn that folly.
        I don’t doubt Anne Horn has supporters, and is well-intentioned. Like virtually councillors, I imagine. And I am sorry that you were ill at the time of these events, and so missed that it happened.
        So will you now apologise to > Islay for ever < for doubting that this episode ever took place? Your indignation, 'double-checking', 'laying the lives of my kids' was rather unseemly for someone who so recently sought public office.

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  28. Dr McKenzie – I don’t think you mean to do it but you can’t half be patronising at times, personally I would prefer kids to have the cheaper cuts of beef slowly braised with carrots, onions, celery and mushrooms and proper mash potatoes or a nice fish pie made with cheaper sustainable fish or maybe a cabanata if you desperately want aubergines.

    And yes I did look at the menu for the school and no I’m not blaming the school or the cooks

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  29. To some extent this whole discussion is academic in terms of Lochgilphead joint campus, because a significant number of the older pupils are to be seen in the town at lunchtime refuelling on chips – so presumably opting out of school meals. I suppose this might be a reflection of the school food not being junky enough, or being too junky?

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    • Robert: I’m not sure about LJC but at Oban High there just isn’t the seating or catering capacity for all the children to dine in the school. The first years all have to stay in but after that I get the impression that the children are pretty much encouraged to go into town. A very different scenario from when I was a lad when there was always sufficient capacity in the school (albeit a bit rushed) to feed all the pupils. This lack of provisioning capacity at the secondaries concerns me.

      A thing that we haven’t really touched on here is pupil choice. One thing that I did agree with the hapless Council spokesperson on is the importance of teaching children about how to make healthy choices for themselves so that it doesn’t matter if they eat in or out. Of course the reality is that children often make poor choices, partly driven by the “tastiness” and convenience of snack foods which are often the only foods they can sensibly buy given the time restraints on their lunch hour.

      Mind you, let him who has never bought junk food when driving cast the first doughnut!

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  30. Sorry Scruff – I don’t mean to sound patronising. As I’ve said before, this is an imperfect medium for conveying emotions and intentions.

    One comment you had made that I hadn’t picked up on was your sensible suggestion that the salad, veg and bread all went out with the “main” meal rather than be brought round afterwards. Thinking about this, I suspect it is done this way to ensure the hot food is distributed as quickly as possible to help prevent it becoming cold. The other issue is the size of the serving plates which means there isn’t enough room on them for all the food at the same time (something the dinner lady commented on). No easy solution to this as when you change one thing you create a different problem (eg larger plates, more room for food, more difficult for younger children to carry, more food on floor).

    Food and nutrition is an emotive subject, particularly when our children are involved and people have very different views as to what is good and what is not. I remember the story of mums coming to the school fence to hurl burgers and chips into their weans when their school introduced a healthy food policy. My concern in going over to Barcaldine to see the lunch was to check that I wasn’t seeing the same sort of problems that Martha’s pictures suggested were going on at Lochgilphead. The results were reassuring and I’m happy that the children are receiving enough food and that it is both attractive and nutritious. I thought your comment on provenance was insightful: it would be good if the Council would give us information on where meat products are actually coming from.

    I think Martha’s wee project has been hugely beneficial in raising the topic of the composition and sufficiency of the food our children are receiving. More parental (and pupil!) involvement in these discussions the better.

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    • Thank you Dr McKenzie, as you say actual meaning can sometimes get lost in translation.

      I think we both agree that all the dinner ladies do a fantastic job with the produce they are given and the discussion should not be interpreted as a reflection on their abilities.

      I would be interested to know if you feel the educational authorities approach to menu planning possibly reflects more the attitude we have in Scotland towards food and diet rather than it reflecting a healthy approach towards nutrition and overall well-being.

      Our attitude towards food and healthy eating in Scotland is pretty poor. Plenty of research and studies have clearly demonstrated that basically we are eating ourselves to an early grave and also an explosion in obesity. As you know, this is causing a huge drain on the NHS and we really need to be doing something about it now instead of waiting until it gets out of control. It won’t rectify itself overnight and will probably take a generation or two to fully resolve but we need to start sooner rather than later.

      An example of what I mean can be seen in comments people have made on here and in other blogs about how the kids have a choice of baked potato every day. Sounds good and a baked potato as part of a meal would be healthy but look at the choices they have to go with it, cheese or coleslaw or occasionally tuna. If you were able to get them all on the one potato at the same time then it would possibly start to reflect a healthy meal but not on their own.

      All it needs is a little bit of imagination, a baked potato topping of chilli-con-carne made with finely diced (or grated) onion, carrot, mushroom, courgette and locally produced mince. Cheap, healthy and tasty but also starts to broaden the palate of the children.

      Simple little changes now can make a big difference for the future but we need to start the shift away from the culture of stodgy, doughy pizza and potato wedges towards a much healthier approach to the food we give our children.

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  31. It is being featured on You and Yours at the moment including an interview with Martha and her father as well as a spokesperson from the council (Jane Murphy).

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    • Heard this.
      Very unimpressive performance from council – playing the MacFadyen line.
      The meals photographed were Martha’s choice.
      She didn’t know healthy food when she saw it.
      The service provides millions of meals (but not to Martha – whose choices are obviously limited).
      These were only four photographs.
      The implication was, in every syllable, that, out of the frame of the photographs was a luscious plenty of platters of fruit, dishes of a variety of vegetables – all of which Martha had wilfully chosen not to mention.
      This was not only an implausible defence, it demonstrated the culture at Kilmory that so profoundly has to change.
      We are supposed to believe that there is never anything wrong in anything the council does?

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      • So how does a local authority ensure the right choices are made? Force feed Kids? Dont give them a choice? Employee more people to police the canteens -maybe the government will fund yet more posts as Teachers already give up their lunch time in certain schools! The simple facts are, the kid in this instance could have chosen from numerous options including baked potatoes,pasta, salad, alternative hot options. Do some research, look at what was available on that day (its not difficult)and then in the interests of balanced reporting why not ask the kid why she didnt want any of that? No policy or political intervention will improve this so-called disgraceful situation as the options are already there, the nutrition content is there – and from what i gather the Education aspect is there. She choose the pizza slice, (incidentally not deep fried) she requested croquettes and presumably she choose corn from the salad bar so decided herself what level of portion of corn she wanted. It was her own choice not to choose the cucumber, the cherry tomotoes, the lettuce, mixed veg. You state there is an implication that out of shot there was a platter of….. – 420 others kids will confirm this as being the case. Kilmory maybe out of touch on many things but sadly your poor research and typical anti-council viewpoint once again shines through.

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  32. I suppose that Martha needs to photograph all the choices each day even if they are not all posted to the blog.

    I am very surprised that they have not tried to ban photography on school premises as they are entitled to do though it would be taken to mean they are embarrassed about the choices.

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  33. Well said JayC. But far too balanced and it won’t stop the prdictable rubbish being posted on here – eg “I wonder how much the council have spent on PR advice on handling this?”

    Answer: Probably about half as much as perhaps they might have if they do or do not decide to give Red Star Lochgilphead a civic reception…:)

    When can we expect the ‘outraged’ article on the number of Councillors getting enhanced responsibility payments???

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  34. JayC, do you know for a fact that at that particular time had other choices? Were you actually there to witness this yourself? Or are you just reading off a list of all the things that SHOULD have been available to her?

    If 420 kids have all been fed before her, is there really a full choice for her to select from?

    The whole thing needs a thorough, transparent investigation.

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    • This question of available choice, when related to the tight budget for school meals, doesn’t add up; if we believe the council’s defence as stated on the BBC today then it’s very difficult to understand how their standard of food choice, variety, quality – and resultant wastage – is possible within their budget. Or were the council claims aspirational rather than factual? (after all, there’s apparently insufficient space in the Lochgilphead campus to enable all the pupils to eat) – perhaps the much vaunted no-profit-public-private-design-build philosophy assumes that a certain proportion of the school roll is absent every day, and they miscalculated?

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  35. What is patently obvious with this furore…..larger schools…..larger problems!

    I would love to know, if seating at lunchtimes at LJC is as inadequate as some say….what edjit thought that cramming so many children into one area was a good idea????

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  36. Is it my imagination or was there not a post 41 here which seems to have been removed. Oh wait, you never remove posts do you?????????????

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    • I believe what FA said was that they very rarely remove posts, not ‘never remove’ and the experience of most on here would support that statement.

      No idea what the removed post said but if it was removed I would wager there was good reason.

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  37. The system is the Kids order in the morning and the correct meals are prepared with some extras becouse some Kids are not collecting the meal they orderd the new system the blogger said has just started was in place before she started the blog they order on a tablet now so with the cashless system there cashcard is linked to what they order

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