A Birmingham private school that caters for African Caribbean children is seeking to become the country's first all-black state school.

Harper Bell School in Highgate says its success in driving up performance among black children should be funded by the public purse.

The primary school - in which 98 per cent of pupils are black and only one teacher is white - gets about half of its pupils each year into city grammars. Its call for state funding comes amid concern expressed by many African Caribbean parents who feel their children are being failed by mainstream education.

In 2006, only 36 per cent of Caribbean boys gained the benchmark five or more good GCSEs nationally compared to an average of 57 per cent.

For boys of African heritage, only 44 per cent made the grade. Harper Bell, a Seventh-day Adventist school which charges #3,300 a year, is aiming to become voluntary-aided in a similar way to other faith schools.

Although not specifically targeting a section of the community, its religious emphasis, staff profile and reputation would ensure it remained an overwhelmingly black school.

Leaders from Harper Bell will next month meet education chiefs at Birmingham City Council to discuss plans to move into the maintained sector.

Solomon Senessie, the school's head, said: "The Government wants diversity and at the same time they want choice. Here is a good way of fulfilling that. I am not saying this would work in every situation, but if they see a situation where it does work like here then it should be taken on board.

"We still have to find what makes black children achieve. Here we identify with the children. It makes a difference in the minds of the children."

Research shows black children are three times more likely to be excluded from mainstream schools than their white peers.

Mr Senessie claimed one possible reason was misunderstanding among their predominantly white teachers. "You have some differences between black children and white children in secondary schools," he said. "Very few white children are actively very challenging to a teacher. They have a subtle way to avoid work.

"They may sit and defy you by not saying anything. A black child responds differently and can be interpreted as infringing on the space of the teacher by words or by action."

Under the drive, Harper Bell will also expand to include a secondary school meaning it will cater for 300 pupils in total and possibly move to a new site.

Mr Senessie added: "I won't be taking taxpayers' money just to promote black issues.

"But if people perceive this to be a school that caters well for black children, they will send them. I won't be bothered if 100 per cent of children are black, but I won't go and promote that."

Bishop Dr Joe Aldred, chairman of the Birmingham-based Council for Black-led Churches, said there were reasons why 'black-led' schools were needed. "Firstly, if you live in a society where you have different kinds of people, then you need those people represented in the delivery of education to pupils generally.

"The second reason is the historical disadvantage of black pupils within the education system which has been documented over the last 50 years. That disadvantage has to be dealt with."

Dr Aldred said he believed the need for all-black schools was a temporary measure that was necessary to address current inequalities.

"When we get to the point where the teaching population is properly representative of the community I think there will be no need to aspire for black-led schools," he said.

Birmingham City Council has had some success addressing black under-achievement. Exam results for 2006 show the proportion of Caribbean and African boys gaining five good GCSEs was seven per cent above the national average in each case. The authority confirmed it was considering Harper Bell's plans.

An education spokesman said: "Officers from the Children, Young People and Families directorate have agreed to meet representatives of the Harper Bell School in the next few weeks for them to share proposals with us and discuss what possibilities may potentially be pursued in the future."