"If anything is going to move attainment forward, it is supported study," Mr Pignatelli declared.
In a message for the directors of the new education authorities he warned: "The majority of youngsters still leave school disappointed." Supported study was a "real success story" and must be backed.
Although backing from the National Lottery was welcome, Mr Pignatelli said that funds could not be used to meet the cost of teachers working with pupils after school or in the holidays. Local authorities had to make a commitment.
Schools in Strathclyde and Lothian will be able to bid for up to pound;5,000 to run study schemes. The Lottery will allocate pound;100,000 a year for three years, matched by the same sum from the Prince's Trust.
He also emphasised the need to keep improved attainment as the goal. Making videos or putting on plays were a diversion.
Liz Reid, director of education for Lothian, told the conference, sponsored by The TES Scotland and the Scottish Office, that success in homework clubs was greatest where the club was only one element in a network of pupil support structures.
Another lesson from six Lothian schemes in deprived areas was that pupils should develop study skills and set targets from S1. "They are then well placed to handle the demands of Standard and Higher grade courses," Mrs Reid said.
Parents were key partners and where possible tutors should be trained. "The homework club is not simply an extension of the school day, and formality is minimised."
Kathleen Gibbons, headteacher of St Kentigern's Academy in Blackburn, said selection of tutors was the main element in success. They must be liked by pupils and willing to operate in a free and relaxed atmosphere after school. "They must have charisma for two hours extra in the day." At her previous school, St Aidan's High in Wishaw, 180 pupils wanted to be involved on the two evenings that the scheme operated.
Anne Marie Carrie, head of education in East Lothian, said that last year's summer school for 200 pupils from Lothian secondaries had been successful with Standard grade candidates but it was "a spectacular failure" that few schools had yet followed up with a study centre in term-time.
Gerry Wilson, secretary of the Scottish Office education and industry department, linked supported study to the Government's task force on schools which underperform (TESS, last week). The variety of "exciting" schemes to help pupils had an obvious bearing on school achievement, Mr Wilson said. He looked to support from industry and the new authorities.