THE headteacher of a prominent Dorset secondary school says he could be forced to cut staff or double class sizes because of a £300,000 budget shortfall next academic year.

Martin McLeman, who blames “disastrous” levels of government funding for the situation, told the Echo that for the first time in his teaching career he had approached parents to help raise money for his school.

Mr McLeman, head teacher at Queen Elizabeth’s School, Wimborne, was speaking after the Department for Education (DfE) launched a consultation on overhauling the current national funding criteria.

He explained: “Our curriculum has been squeezed for all of the four years I have been here.

“Each year we’ve had to reduce the amount of money available to departments to buy resources.

“It is much more serious than just equipment and teaching materials - it is about having a qualified adult in front of the class.”

Even under the DfE proposed funding changes, QE school would only receive a 1.1 per cent budget increase - equating to roughly £60,000, or £240,000 less than Mr McLeman says his school needs. The head explained that QE’s budget has risen because of increases in energy costs, national insurance, pensions, the apprenticeship levy, support staff costs and teacher salaries.

“We are going to have to either look at staffing issues or increase class sizes, in some areas possibly double them. I’m doing all I can to avoid redundancies,” said Mr McLeman.

“We are oversubscribed at QE, all year groups are full, we cannot accommodate all the people who want to come here.

“We haven’t got the money to pay for enough teachers to teach all the students who come here.”

Now he’s asked parents to donate £8 three times a year through the school’s 50/50 club, and sign up to an online shopping scheme backed by major retailers. He added: “The next thing I have to do is look carefully at staffing, and either double class sizes or reduce my staff. I’m in a really difficult situation because I don’t think I can do either - so something has got to give.”

“Some of top sets have 32 pupils, there is every chance they will be much bigger next year. If we have any teacher absence or illness, we cannot afford to pay for supply teachers. We’re going to have to put classes together and senior staff will have to teach them as a big group - that is one of the things we are looking at.

“No decisions have been made yet though, we just don’t know.”

A DfE spokesman confirmed QE received £5,666,000 this academic year, and under the funding formula change it would receive £5,726,000. The spokesman added: “All schools are funded through the same model and always have been.”