Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Lest we forget - Argyll and Bute's communications disaster

Now that the NeverSeconds blog is back up and running, I thought it would be useful to remind you of Argyll and Bute's disastrous statement last Friday which amounted to throwing petrol on the fire. It's an example of incompetence of the highest order. As I wrote on Friday, though, unhappy employees rarely produce good work, so it's vital that Argyll and Bute Council address the problems within their comms department. 

By depicting a 9 year old's reviews, which, after all, gave an average of 7.59 out of 10 for the meals she'd had, as an "unwarranted attack", the Council had run out of credibility by the end of the first sentence. The whole thing is a passive aggressive self justifying whinge. It's hardly as though Martha was responsible for the headline in the Daily Record which so upset the dinner ladies. A bit of thought could have seen them quietly reassured rather than used as pawns in a publicity war.

This statement will, no doubt, be used in training courses on media management as an example of how not to do things for years to come.  

The good news about this social media storm is that  Martha has now raised not far off £84000 for Mary's Meals, meaning that a whole new kitchen will be built in Malawi. All's well that ends well, as they say. 

Statement on school meals from Argyll and Bute Council
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.

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