Heads' crisis case unproven

30th September 2005 at 01:00
Michael Shaw's report on John Howson's survey of leadership appointments, "Shortage of heads worse for Catholics", neglected to mention a crucial point (TES, September 9). Although the researchers sent questionnaires to all institutions advertising leadership posts, less than half (between 30 and 43 per cent) were returned, and thus the data only relates to a minority of schools.

It is dangerous to generalise from a study with such low response rates, as it is well known that non-respondents differ from respondents in important respects. It is entirely possible, for example, that the majority of institutions were too busy dealing with applications for leadership posts to return the questionnaire.

For The TES to suggest that Professor Howson's research provides adequate evidence of a "crisis" or even a "shortage" of applicants is misleading.

The low response rates effectively invalidate any findings and your uncritical coverage risks influencing policy and practice in potentially damaging ways.

Dr Patrick WhiteDepartment of Sociology University of Leicester University Road Leicester

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