GOVERNMENT ministers should really be sure of their facts before they make public declarations.

Food Chain Minister Lord Whitty had what can be described as a bit of a go at The Northern Echo on Radio Four's PM programme yesterday.

Asked to comment on our exclusive story yesterday about contingency plans being made for another mass cull of animals, Lord Whitty said: "If the source is the one I think it is then it is old news...They are misinterpreting what are old stories of pre-foot-and-mouth."

In fact, our story was not based on the source Lord Whitty was thinking of. It couldn't have been because if it had preceded the epidemic, how could it have possibly referred to re-opening disposal sites such as the one at Tow Law in County Durham? Equally, how could it have highlighted the possibility of a return to public protests seen at Tow Law?

The document obtained by The Northern Echo - pointing to growing concern at the failure to halt foot-and-mouth - had been written just a few weeks ago. It was not old and it was not misinterpreted.

As we said yesterday, it is not wrong for the Government to have contingency plans drawn up.

It is, however, wrong for the Government to keep the full picture from the country.

IT is with sadness that we receive the news that another head-teacher from our region has been suspended, pending an investigation into alleged examination "cheating".

Coming less than two months after Helen Quick quit as head of a Newcastle primary school, it is another indication of the pressure schools are under to hit league table targets.

We do not, of course, condone cheating. There are many head-teachers under the same pressures who have not interfered with the accuracy of results.

That said, we do share the concern of those in the teaching profession that national testing at primary level is placing too much pressure on the adults - and the children - involved at the sharp end.

When dedicated, respected teachers are being driven over the edge, it is children who lose out and it is time for a review.