The East End borough is one of Britain's most deprived areas. Nearly half of the children have free school meals, but the schools are among the fastest improving in the country.
The authority, which has historically spent below its limit on education, has increased spending by nearly 35% in the past six years.
Ian Harrison, Newham's director of education, said the crunch came in 1988, when the council commissioned what turned out to be a damning study by the National Foundation for Educational Research. Two years ago the NFER researchers returned and found the situation transformed.
Graham Lane, Newham's education committee chairman, says: 'We are not afraid to do a hands-on job with schools that are failing and they come out of special measures very quickly. We don't tolerate truancy; we take parents to court. We don't tolerate petty violence by parents. We ban them from schools.
'The drive to raise standards really started three or four years ago, and we've shown a fast improvement. Our exam results were bottom of the league in 1989. Now we are 123rd out of 150.'