REPORT ON IMPROVING ACCESS TO HIGHER EDUCATION FOCUSES ON DEFICIENCIES IN CAREERS ADVICE AND GUIDANCE IN SCHOOLS
A new report the ‘National Strategy for Access and Student Success; Interim report to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills by the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the Office for Fair Access identifies, interalia , a major area of concern in relation to easing access to higher education for the most disadvantaged pupils- namely ‘the changes that came into effect in September 2012 to careers education and guidance.’ In short, schools were given statutory responsibility for providing access for their pupils to good quality independent careers guidance.
The report states ‘The Education Act 2011 ends the statutory requirements for local authorities to deliver a universal careers service to young people. Schools have instead been placed under a statutory duty to secure careers advice but have not been given any additional funding to do so. The requirement to provide careers education has also been removed.’ The report then identifies evidence reflecting these concerns. It states ‘A report by the Work Foundation argues that ‘without careers education, careers guidance is reduced to an abrupt and isolated intervention’. They urge that ‘careers education should be embedded in the curriculum as early as primary schools and expanded on with age’
The report continues ‘ In its evidence to the Education Select Committee in October 2012, the Institute of Careers Guidance said of the guidance offered to young people:
a. There is no overall coherence of career guidance provision whatsoever for young people up to 18.
b. For young people in schools, provision is a postcode lottery subject to budgets and head-teachers’ commitment to independent, impartial career guidance.
c. The service in schools is at best restricted in terms of student coverage and limited to the 30 weeks of term-time provision. In the past, students and parents have always appreciated the opportunity to access independent career guidance during school holidays. Now, at these times, it is not possible to access independent career guidance without payment.
d. E-mail correspondence between the Association of South East Colleges and the Skills Funding Agency has highlighted that the National Careers Service website excludes a range of courses offered by colleges of further education that are not funded by the Skills Funding Agency.
e. Young people between 16 and 18 who are in employment but wish to change direction or develop their career prospects do not have access to any independent face-to-face careers guidance service without payment
Furthermore, in its report of 2011, the International Centre for Guidance Studies argued that the situation for schools was challenging as they adapt to the loss of Aimhigher, Business Education Partnerships and the erosion of the Connexions service.
The centre argues that ‘the removal of the statutory duty to provide careers education could result in a focus on “activities” rather than on a developmental curriculum’
Crucially, this National Strategy for Access and Student Success report says in Para 145 pg 51 :
‘ In light of such concerns, we anticipate that the final report may recommend that a greater governmental focus on issues of advice and guidance within schools and colleges will be important in terms of maximising the return on investment in widening participation to HE. The strategy will also explore how HE can most effectively engage in supporting good information, advice and guidance (IAG) concerning HE in schools and colleges in the new environment.’
Experts agree that face to face careers guidance from an independent, qualified professional is, more often than not, the best form of careers advice and this is particularly the case for the most disadvantaged pupils. A number of reports, including those mentioned above, stress the importance of easy access to high quality advice. This will help ensure that pupils are better equipped to make informed choices regarding the pathways into further and higher education , training and work as well as improving access to higher education for the most disadvantaged pupils and in advancing the governments social mobility agenda.While government guidance encourages face to face advice, where appropriate, it is left to schools to decide the type and scope of advice they will offer to their pupils.Given that there is no ring fenced funding for this advice , experts believe that schools, under budgetary pressure ,will opt for cheaper, lower quality forms of advice ie telephone advice and access to advice through a web portal. The new National Careers Service is focused mainly on the needs of adults.
From September 2012, the Education Act 2011 placed schools under a duty to secure access to independent and impartial careers guidance for their pupils in years 9-11. The Careers Guidance in Schools Regulations 2013 will extend the age range to which the duty applies. From September 2013, the duty will be extended to include all registered pupils in year 8 (12-13 year olds) and years 12 and 13 (16-18 year olds).
A CIPD survey this month finds that parents and pupils are not getting sufficient or appropriate advice in schools on Apprenticeship options, which affects their take up and credibility.The survey – Employee Outlook: Focus on Apprenticeships – looked at responses from more than 400 employees with children under the age of 18. It found two-thirds of parents believed apprenticeships were a good career option, yet, only 15 per cent of them thought school teachers gave their children enough information about them as an alternative to a university education.
Ofsted may adjust its framework this September giving careers advice a priority
Sir Michael Wilshaw, the Chief Inspector, has given the strongest indication yet that schools’ careers provision could be formally inspected as part of Ofsted’s framework from September.
While inspectors take into account the extent to which “pupils have gained a well-informed understanding” of the career options available to them, there is no separate grade for careers provision. As a result, critics have warned that schools are not being adequately monitored to ensure they comply with their statutory duty to provide pupils with impartial and objective advice on qualifications and pathways into training, further and higher education and work. Ofsted is, however, undertaking a ‘thematic’ review of careers advice in schools. Early signs, though, are that the quality and scope of careers advice now on offer in schools varies dramatically.
Appearing before the Commons Education Select Committee on 13 February, Sir Michael stressed the need to “recalibrate the schools framework to focus more on careers advice”.
“It’s really important that impartial advice is given to students on progression routes and I’m not sure that’s the case,” he told MPs. “In our adjustment to our inspection framework from September we will give the inspection of careers advice a priority.”
The Full exchange- Education Select Committee Hearing 13 February:
Q27 Pat Glass: Can I move off the agenda slightly and ask you a different question? When Matthew Hancock, the Minister, appeared before us recently, we were looking at careers advice and guidance, and he said he was looking to Ofsted to inspect and monitor that. I pointed out that Ofsted had said very clearly that they did not see it as their role to inspect the statutory duty in schools, and asked him if he was going to have a word with you. Has he had a word with you about it?
Sir Michael Wilshaw: Matthew might want to come in here. My view is that it is a good idea to devolve this funding to schools.
Q28 Pat Glass: There is no funding being devolved to schools; the only thing that is being devolved is the statutory duty.
Sir Michael Wilshaw: Yes. It is important that we do monitor it effectively. It is really important that impartial advice is given to students on progression routes, and I am not sure that is the case. In our adjustment to our inspection framework from September, we will give the inspection of careers advice a priority.
An Ofsted spokeswoman later qualified Sir Michaels remarks, telling the TES (22 February) that the watchdog would not make a final decision on whether to give careers greater prominence in school inspection reports until the summer. “We will draw on the findings of the Ofsted thematic survey, due to be published in the summer, and consider if any changes are required to its inspection frameworks,” she said.
The Government recently announced that schools careers duty will be extended to years 8 to 13 from September 2013
COULD SAT APTITUDE TESTS- DESIGNED IN THE US- HELP UK HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS DEVELOP A FAIRER SYSTEM TO MEASURE POTENTIAL?
Could they help UK Universities select students more fairly?
Universities are keen to ensure that they have a clear idea of a students potential in deciding admissions and not simply to rely on exam results. Measuring potential is not easy and cant really be done by looking at a students application (UCAS) form, contrary to the claims made by some admissions tutors.
They have looked across the Atlantic for inspiration looking in particular at the SAT aptitude test (the SAT Reasoning TestTM) as a tool in the selection of candidates for admission to higher education (HE) either as a standalone tool or one used in conjunction with GCSEs and AS/A2 levels to determine admissions.
SAT are multiple-choice tests required for admission by several top US universities (although they are not the only test available). It is sometime assumed that SATs are similar to GCSEs or A levels . They are not. They are basically IQ tests designed to measure potential rather than to measure what you have learned at school.
So if SAT tests are supposed to measure potential, do they do this effectively? There is much debate about this. However, given that a cottage industry has developed in tutoring students to help them pass the SAT there are grounds for doubting that the tests truly measure potential. SAT questions are quite particular and the skills to answer them are not often taught in schools. Hence the cottage industry ,selling textbooks and extra tuition Students wanting to take SATs must usually register independently, pay for the test and travel to an SAT test centre. For rural students, the nearest location may be some distance And then there is the problem of revising. Poorer students inevitably are disadvantaged.
In the UK, back in 2005, the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) was commissioned to evaluate the potential value of using an the SAT Reasoning TestTM as an additional tool in the selection of candidates for admission to higher education (HE). This five-year study was co-funded by the Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills (BIS), the NFER, the Sutton Trust and the College Board. The primary aim of the study was to examine whether the addition of the SAT® alongside A levels is better able to predict HE participation and outcomes than A levels alone. And whether it might help identify students with the potential to benefit from higher education whose ability is not adequately reflected in their prior attainment.
The study found that of the prior attainment measures, average A level points score is the best predictor of HE participation and degree class, followed by average GCSE points score. The inclusion of GCSE information adds usefully to the predictive power of A levels. In the absence of other data, the SAT® has some predictive power but it does not add any additional information, over and above that of GCSEs and A levels (or GCSEs alone), at a significantly useful level. But could the SAT® identify economically or educationally disadvantaged students with the potential to benefit from HE whose ability is not adequately reflected in their A level results; and could the SAT® distinguish helpfully between the most able applicants who get straight A grades at A level.
The study also found ‘no evidence that the SAT® provides sufficient information to identify students with the potential to benefit from higher education whose ability is not adequately reflected in their prior attainment.’
In addition ‘the SAT® does not distinguish helpfully between the most able applicants who get three or more A grades at A level. The SAT® Reading and Writing components do add some predictive power for some classes of degree at highly selective universities, but add very little beyond the information provided by prior attainment, in particular prior attainment at GCSE.’
So it is pretty safe to conclude that the SAT is no panacea for measuring student potential and would have limited utility for Higher Education Institutions in this country to help them design a fairer admissions process that fully takes into account an applicants potential.
Use of an aptitude test in university entrance: a validity study Final Report-3 December 2010- NFER-Sutton Trust
NATIONAL CAREERS COUNCIL-WILL REPORT IN MAY ON HOW SCHOOLS ARE COPING WITH DUTY TO PROVIDE INDEPENDENT CAREERS ADVICE
THE NATIONAL CAREERS COUNCIL
The NCC will report on how schools are adapting to their new statutory requirement to offer independent careers advice
Early evidence hardly encouraging
Evidence suggests that good-quality careers guidance interventions in schools have a positive impact on decision-making processes, reduce course switching, drop-out rates, and contribute towards successful transitions within statutory and further education, according to the National Careers Council. The National Careers Council provides advice to government on strategy for the National Careers Service and allied career support services.
However, according to the Council, findings from the OECD and other studies highlight career education programmes that develop career management skills (including career adaptability and resilience) in many schools are lacking. The Council is gathering intelligence on this issue and will be report in May 2013 on how schools and colleges have adapted to the new arrangements emerging from the Education Act and new Statutory Guidance. (A recent survey from Careers England found that careers advice in some schools is actually worse now than it was before guidance was issued). The National Careers Council says ‘ So far, many schools are indicating how ill-prepared they are, as they are increasingly faced with a weight of marketing material from prospective providers. Head teacher bodies have expressed concern in this regard. The impact of the Statutory Guidance needs to be monitored closely.’
The NCC is not wrong about the need to monitor provision , particularly as funding for careers advice and guidance is not ring fenced and schools may well be tempted to opt for the cheapest option (ie access to a web portal etc) when face to face advice is often more appropriate, particularly for the most disadvantaged pupils. Ofsted is not inspecting the quality of careers advice and guidance offered by schools, so there are understandable concerns that standards will drop. The government ,aware of these concerns ,has promised a ‘thematic’ Ofsted review of careers guidance in schools which is due to report this summer . Good, early careers advice is widely seen as one important measure to assist social mobility.
A recent report from the ‘Education Select Committee: Careers Guidance Inquiry’ put the spotlight firmly on the need for young people to have access to good quality independent and impartial careers guidance
(Source NCC written evidence to the Education Select Committee)
A new duty requiring schools to ‘ secure independent careers guidance for pupils in years 9-11 came into force in September 2012. Guidance secured under the duty must be provided in an impartial manner and include information on the full range of 16-18 education or training options, including apprenticeships.’ The Government also recently announced an extension of the careers duty to years 8-13 from September 2013. Colleges will also be required to secure guidance for their 16-18 year-old students.
The Department for Education has also published a practical guide to help schools carry out their new responsibilities.
Young people still receiving inadequate advice on education choices
Mckinsey have just published an important report ‘Education to Employment’ that seeks to identify why there is such a gap between what businesses and employers want, and need, and what education systems provide. Around the world, governments and businesses face a conundrum: high levels of youth unemployment and a shortage of job seekers with critical skills. How can a country successfully move its young people from education to employment? What are the challenges? Which interventions work? How can these be scaled up? Almost 40 percent of employers say a lack of skills is the main reason for entry-level vacancies. If employers are not confident that the system delivers what they want, young people it appears also lack confidence in the system. Half of youth are not sure that their post -secondary education has improved their chances of finding a job. Youth unemployment rates are unacceptably high as is the number of young people who are not in education, employment or training
It has become received wisdom that businessmen need students with more practical vocational skills. While vocational education appears to be a good solution for policymakers, it has, in fact, low or lesser perceived value among students.
This was an important finding. The research compared student “perceptions of value” between traditional education and vocational education and apprentice programmes. In the research every country values traditional education over vocational education except for Germany.. Germany, of course, is a country regarded as something of a model when it comes to practical skills and vocational programmes, with a myriad of apprentice-based programmes and it has among the lowest youth unemployment rates in Europe.
Unfortunately, even there vocational programmes are not always seen as the answer. 23% of students who attended vocational programmes there felt they attended the wrong institution, and 42% are unsure they took the right programme. This is hardly encouraging.
The report also highlights, more generally, the fact that young people are not getting the advice they need at a crucial time of their lives. The report states ‘they face the daunting task of choosing what to study and where to study it. The evidence is distressing: way too many young people take a wrong turn here. Fewer than half of those surveyed are confident that if they had to do it again, they would study the same subject. That’s a lot of disappointment; it’s also a sign that students don’t have the information they need to make the right choices.’
In short ,Youth are not well informed when making educational and career choices .
The report continues ‘Some 40 percent of youth report that they were not familiar with the market conditions and requirements even for well-known professions such as teachers or doctors. Without this understanding, many students choose courses half blindly, without a vision of whether there will be a demand for their qualifications upon graduation.’ Sounds familiar?
Politicians wax eloquent about social mobility and the importance of making informed choices at critical points in life. Yet a majority of young people do not have access to high quality, independent advice. They might have an ambition, for example, to go to university but then fail to take the qualifications that they need to achieve this, because they know no better aged 13 and there is nobody there to support them. Its not rocket science. Social mobility cant and wont improve if so many young people don’t make the choices that maximise their potential. Until politicians grasp this nettle ,nothing will change.
The Governments approach to careers guidance in schools is pretty straightforward. Schools now have a statutory duty to give their pupils access to independent careers advice and guidance. But the type of guidance is a decision left up to individual schools. And they have to pay for it from their schools budget-ie there is no ring fenced funding.
Types of advice range from access to a web portal, to a telephone chat or face to face advice . A recent survey by Careers England found that the type and quality of advice now on offer varies significantly between schools. Careers advice has been reduced in more than eight out of 10 schools in England in the past year, the research suggests.Face to face advice, the type regarded as most appropriate for the most disadvantaged pupils, is in short supply. It is of course the most expensive option.Some schools are almost cavalier in their disregard for their new statutory duty, possibly aware that Ofsted will not inspect the quality of the careers advice and guidance on offer in their school.
Professor Tony Watts ,one of our foremost experts on information advice and guidance, summarises the governments new approach as not about delegation but abdication. Watts told the Education Select Committee this month that it is strange that a government so keen to measure our education system against the very best in the world, ignores international evidence in this particular area. Evidence from high performing countries is that not one country leaves it just up to schools to provide careers advice to pupils without regulation .In Finland, for example, each school has to produce and publish a plan for careers guidance. Each school also has professional careers counsellors,indeed careers education is a mandatory part of the curriculum, and there are very clear guidelines for schools on careers guidance.
Experts, giving evidence to the Select Committee, claim that there are a big economic benefits to ensuring that we give our pupils access to good, independent, professional careers advice and guidance . But we also have a moral obligation to do so.
What is most perplexing about this is that a government that has a genuine commitment to improving social mobility attaches such a low priority to ensuring that our most disadvantaged children have guaranteed access to professional face to face advice at an early stage. They need this support to enable them to make informed and appropriate choices to maximise their potential. Without it, it is hard to envisage social mobility improving any time soon.
Note-Independent research (9 November) for the Association of Colleges found:
- 44% of school teachers admit to giving a pupil bad or uninformed advice in the past
- 82% of school teachers don’t feel they have the appropriate knowledge to advise pupils on careers, and 82% are calling for better guidance on advising pupils about their options post-16
Charity that promotes ‘learning by doing’ wants changes to the training and education system
Some concerns that reforms to GCSEs ignores vocational skills
The Edge Foundation, which champions technical, practical and vocational learning, underpinned by the mantra “learn by doing”, launched, in Parliament this week, the publication ‘Six Steps for Change’- six policy steps which aim to raise the status of technical, practical and vocational learning in the UK. The charity reminds us that there are many pathways to success.
Edge wants an education and training system which helps young people find out what they’re good at and what they enjoy doing; rewards and recognises individual success in all its forms, not just in exams; helps people choose paths that support their talents and ambitions; shows how education creates the knowledge, skills and talents needed by the UK economy;
Edge says that ‘with these aims in mind, we want politicians, practitioners and the public to:
recognise that there are many talents and paths to success
ensure that “learning by doing” is valued equally with academic learning
provide technical, practical and vocational learning as an integral and valued part of every young person’s education and as a recognised route to success
from the age of 14, give young people a choice of learning experiences and pathways based on their motivation, talents and career aspirations
ensure that the technical, practical and vocational education and qualifications offered in schools, FE and HE are high quality and recognised by employers
ensure all young people, whatever their different abilities and interests, leave the system with confidence, ambition and the skills to succeed and the skills the economy needs’
Among its practical recommendations -under Step Four… ‘From the age of 14 give young people a choice of learning experiences..’ is that young people should have access to impartial careers information, advice and guidance from the age of 11 so they can make informed choices at 14+’
At the launch there was much praise for John Hayes, the recently reshuffled Skills Minister, but there were also concerns that ,with his departure , the vocational element of learning might not now get the attention it deserved, despite its growing importance.
Hayes was responsible for launching the National Careers Service which covers advice at 18+ ,with other careers advice for young people, now the responsibility of schools, although they have no ring fenced budget for this provision. The new National Careers Service, launched in April 2012, offers a single point of access to online and helpline support but is focused specifically on young adults. There are real concerns that young people, particularly the most disadvantaged, who need face to face professional advice and mentoring will , because of cost considerations, not get access to such advice, undermining the drive for greater social mobility.
Jan Hodges, CEO of the Edge Foundation, said on BBC 2 Newsnight, on 17 September, that she understands the need for GCSE reform but said that the reforms do not go far enough. Pupils need access to vocational options and applied skills with some means of assessment and recognition of their achievements, not just their academic achievements .The proposed EBacc (or is it EBC ?) focuses exclusively on academic subjects. We need a more fundamental debate and discussion about what outcomes we need from our education and assessment systems.In her view, we haven’t, as yet, struck the right balance between academic knowledge and vocational skills. Her message was reiterated by Lord Baker, the former Tory Education Secretary, who introduced GCSEs (although the qualification was conceived by Keith Joseph). Lord Baker, chairman of the Edge Foundation, advocates learning by doing and helped launch, with the late Lord Dearing, University Technical Colleges supported by universities and local employers.
Download the full Six Steps for Change report:
Professor Watts gives a qualified welcome to the new Guide on independent careers guidance
Professor Tony Watts believes that the newly published Practical Guide for Schools on Securing Independent Careers Guidance represents a positive outcome for the work of the Liberal Democrats, and for the lobbying undertaken by Careers England and other members of the Careers Sector Strategic Alliance. The Guide is directed at head teachers, school staff, governing bodies and local authorities. It relates to the duty, under the Education Act 2011, for schools to ‘secure access to independent and impartial careers guidance for their pupils from September 2012’. It seeks to supplement the Statutory Guidance issued in March 2012 by ‘offering additional practical information’ on which schools might wish to draw ‘when interpreting your new responsibilities and deciding on the most appropriate forms of independent careers guidance for your pupils’.
On the crucial issue of face-to-face guidance, (as opposed to by phone or web portal) the Guide states: ‘Increased complexity and competition in education and labour markets means that most, if not all, young people would benefit from individual, face-to-face careers guidance to enable them to make informed decisions about future options based upon consideration of the wealth of information available from a range of sources and media. As highlighted in the statutory guidance, this is particularly crucial for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds or with special educational needs. Face-to-face guidance with a qualified careers adviser will enable your pupils to review their circumstances, abilities, interests and aspirations as they make decisions about future education, training and work options.’
This goes some way to meeting the professions concerns based on the statement in the Statutory Guidance, that face-to-face guidance is ‘particularly’ relevant to children from disadvantaged backgrounds or with special educational needs which could easily be read as implying that it is only relevant to just these pupils.
Professor Watts says the following about external support- ‘On the nature of what needs to be commissioned from outside the school, the Guide indicates that schools with an in-house careers adviser can ‘retain’ him or her (again, as previously, blurring the issue of whether schools without one can now appoint one) but that this will need to be supplemented ‘with external sources of careers guidance to meet the new duty’. It extends the list of such sources to include not only ‘an external careers provider’ but also ‘employer visits, mentoring, website and telephone access’ and notes that ‘taken together, the external sources must provide information on the full range of post-16 options and access to face-to-face support where needed’. This, Professor Watts concludes, ‘would seem designed to encourage use of external face-to-face careers providers without requiring it.’ However, although Ministers have said that ‘Where there is clear evidence of a school failing to meet its statutory duties, we will take action’, it is not clear who will monitor the implementation of these duties. Ofsted says that that it will not inspect against them -so who will?
Professor Watts, who has been highly critical of the government’s approach to Careers Advice, Guidance and Education in schools, is much more positive about this Guide. He says in a recent Commentary for Careers England (July): ‘.. within the framework of the Coalition Government’s policies, it (the Guide) constitutes a stronger statement of Government expectations from schools than has been available previously. It should help schools to meet their new responsibilities, vague as these still are, in a more positive and thoughtful way. It merits strong promotion to schools from the Government, from Careers England and its members, and from other careers organisations.’
CAREERS GUIDANCE-GUIDE TO HELP SCHOOLS
Publication helps schools to meet their new statutory responsibility
From September 2012, schools will be legally responsible for securing access to independent and impartial careers guidance for all pupils in years 9-11. Careers guidance secured under the duty must include information on all 16- 18 education or training options, including Apprenticeships. In March 2012, the Department for Education published ‘Statutory Guidance for Schools – Careers Guidance’. Schools must have regard to this in exercising their new responsibilities. Apart from the elements identified in the statutory guidance, schools are free, to decide what careers provision to make available in accordance with the needs of their pupils. However, no ring-fenced funding will be available to schools to provide this support.-so they will have to find the funds from existing budgets.
The Guide accepts that ‘that most, if not all, young people would benefit from individual, face-to-face careers guidance to enable them to make informed decisions about future options based upon consideration of the wealth of information available from a range of sources and media.’
On the face of it this looks good. But face to face advice is more expensive than other forms of advice (by telephone and via web portals) .Most experts believe that schools will go for the cheaper option, though face to face advice is regarded as essential for the most disadvantaged pupils. It is also the case that social mobility will improve if young people are given good independent advice as early as possible(aged 12/13) so they can choose the qualifications and pathways into Further /Higher Education ,or into employment, that are most appropriate for them. There has always been a concern that schools advice has been of poor quality and not always impartial , given that schools have a financial interest in keeping pupils on their rolls.
A further worry is that Ofsted will not inspect the quality of careers advice being offered by schools-so how exactly will schools that fail to provide good careers advice-be held to account?
Schools can retain their careers adviser ‘but, as the statutory guidance makes clear, you will need to supplement this with external sources of careers guidance to meet the new duty. This could include an external careers provider, employer visits, mentoring, website and telephone helpline access. Taken together, the external sources must provide information on the full range of post-16 options and access to face-to-face support where needed’.
Securing Independent ,Careers Guidance A Practical Guide for Schools
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- PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE REPORT ON ACADEMIES-SOME CONCERNS OVER FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT
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- THE PUPIL PREMIUM AND SPECIAL SCHOOLS
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- INSPECTING ACADEMY CHAINS-ON THE AGENDA
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