A charity or a business?

Fiona Millar's picture
 41
As I was making my way to the swimming pool at the crack of dawn last week, I caught this interview on the BBC's Today programme under the heading "Boss of the Week".

The boss in question was Helen Fraser, CEO of the Girls' Day School Trust,  an organisation billed as having a £200million turnover each year and "billions' in assets. The GDST has 24 fee-paying schools and two academies. It accrued a surplus of £24 million in the year ending 2011 and £18 million in the previous year . So lavish is the surplus from fee income that it is rolling out a £100million five year investment plan to make its schools even more "beautiful and well equipped" ( although that didn't sound essential as the reporter  noted how "well-appointed" the private sixth form in which he did the interview was). Teachers salaries also went up by 3.5% last year, compared to a 0% rise in the state sector.

Ms Fraser was blunt about her role - she sees herself as business woman not an educator. Her "business" needs charitable status because it if didn't have this benefit it would have to pay corporation tax on its surpluses. The reporter also observed that  private donations to the Trust can avoid tax meaning a further loss to the public purse.

Ms Fraser described her product as 'the girls" who came out confident. committed, composed and courageous. I am sure they do, the majority almost certainly being blessed with relatively privileged home lives and what can only be described as a luxury education.

The question is whether such an organisation is really a business or a charity. You decide.

 

 
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John Wadsworth's picture
Tue, 11/09/2012 - 19:05

Without question a business that unashamedly uses its charitable status to avoid paying tax. Private schools and their lobby group should be stripped of their charitable status.

Helen's picture
Thu, 18/10/2012 - 07:46

Were you aware that private tutoring companies are also able to register as charities? I get leaflets through my door every day from such companies and they almost always have websites which have been written by people who are barely literate. I discovered that one particular local tutoring company was also a registered charity, despite there being no mention of this fact on either their website or their printed flyers. When I contacted the Charity Commission to complain that they were clearly not providing any charitable benefit but were merely a business selling private tutoring, the respsonse was that unless I could prove any financial irregularities this company wasn't doing anything wrong.

Simon Hepburn's picture
Tue, 11/09/2012 - 19:07

I think this is the future - whether you see this as positive or not. You can't create chains of schools and then limit the sizes any more than you could tell Tesco (or for that matter Oxfam) not to expand. My blog at http://www.marketingadviceforschools.com/wordpress/2012/09/10/school-war... has a few more examples of these future mega-chains, from ARK to Cognita.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 12/09/2012 - 07:20

Thanks, Simon, to your blog. Research (see FAQs above "Do market forces in education increase achievement and efficiency?") found that there is no conclusive evidence about the effect of market forces on educational outcomes. However, the research found that competition between schools carried a risk of increased segregation, and schools in competition with each other often shifted expenditure from teaching to non-teaching spending such as marketing. This is already happening here - eg Durand Primary Academy paid a PR firm to promote its "brand" and Cuckoo Hall Academies Trust employs its own marketing manager.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/apr/19/primary-school-paid-pr-firm

http://uk.linkedin.com/in/davidlittlejohns

Cognita has already been accused of putting profit before education:

http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2011/04/why-profit-making-free-sch...

Simon Hepburn's picture
Wed, 12/09/2012 - 11:01

Janet - thanks for those links. If you follow the Guardian's job ads there are many more marketing roles coming up in schools as you identify. I don't have a huge problem with this (as my blog probably suggests), so long as they are also listening to their communities and improving services, not cutting to make huge profits!

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 12/09/2012 - 12:57

Simon - marketing schools has one purpose: to attract pupils to a particular school. Nothing wrong with that - schools have done this for years with prospectuses, adverts for open days, press releases, websites etc. However, the current trend is for marketing to become more aggressive and more expensive with schools being cast as "brands".

http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2012/03/is-money-diverted-from-cla...

The effect of this will be that schools will be less likely to cooperate with neighbouring schools if they are in competition especially when schools pay out thousands of pounds to increase "market share" by slick advertising which often comprises little more than spin - how many times schools say they're "innovative", "visionary", and so on before these words become downgraded? "Outstanding" has already been misused by schools claiming they are "outstanding" before Ofsted has even paid a visit.

Money spent on aggressive marketing is money that could be better spent on pupils.

Richard Taylor's picture
Tue, 11/09/2012 - 20:04

This is a complex issue that needs more debate and isn’t limited to independent schools - I can think of several high-profile charities who seem to be nothing more than major fund raising and lobbying organisations.

If you take away charitable status and a school closes down it may be a pyric victory if the state then has to then build new schools or expand existing ones. This is likely to be a higher than the 'cost' of an independent schools charitable status.

For those interested in this issue as it applies to the higher education sector I recommend listening to this (rather long) US radio program about the University of Phoenix.

http://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/tomorrows-college/pho...

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Tue, 11/09/2012 - 21:23

I was at a union meeting in Liverpool where this issue was being discussed.

They have tremendous problems in their comprehensives because they've ended up with 80% boys and 20% girls which is a really difficult dynamic to handle. They've put plans in place to restructure to address these issues but they've all be cancelled by the imposition of free schools to cream off the girls.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 12/09/2012 - 07:42

So, charity status is used to avoid corporation tax on surplus while donations to the charity can conveniently be offset against tax. This allows an already advantaged charity to accrue more advantage while marketing itself as being better than the state sector which as a whole can't possibly compete.

But when pupils from comprehensive schools graduate from university they are likely to get higher degrees than their equally qualified peers from independent schools. This suggest that confidence, commitment and courage are not limited to pupils whose parents paid for them to gain an "advantage". The much-hyped "advantage" is actually membership to an exclusive network - and this membership is not given on merit but merely by the ability to pay.

http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2011/03/comprehensive-pupils-outpe...

OECD analysis found the best-performing school systems are those which are the most equitable.

http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2012/02/%e2%80%9cthe-highest-perfo...

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Wed, 12/09/2012 - 07:45

Another way of addressing the question is to follow the money.

If the profit goes into the pockets of shareholders, it's a business.

But if the surplus is ploughed back into improving education, then it's a charity. And if the profits from rich, fee-paying parents are being used to support two state schools, then that's definitely charity.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Wed, 12/09/2012 - 08:03

So you're saying, Ricky, that if I set up a free school which creams off the kids who are cheap to educate into a self perpetuatingly good cohort (of the bright girls in this case - the old private school catchment and the aspirationals), so that I can pay myself and my staff high salaries while the local schools go to the dogs due to my inflicting toxic cohorts on them by what I've done, I'm behaving charitably?

If I instead got myself a job in an exisiting comp, worked hard to raise standards there and then worked supportively with all other local school to help them too rather than nicking their best kids and causing them problems would I be 'uncharitable'? This follows, doesn't it, given that the definition of charitable in this case is acting competitively to destroy other local schools.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Wed, 12/09/2012 - 12:42

No, Rebecca. You seem to have gone wildly off topic here. We aren't discussing free schools in this thread.

The schools run by the GDST are independent, fee-paying schools... except for the two state schools (one in Birkenhead, the other in Liverpool) which benefit from the profits made by the fee-charging ones.

The snobbery (and maybe racism?) involved in describing the children of less well-off parents as "toxic cohorts" is breathtaking. It makes you sound like a supporter of eugenics c. 1910.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Wed, 12/09/2012 - 13:10

It doesn't matter whether they're free schools or academies Ricky. What the Girl's Day School Trust is doing in Liverpool is causing huge problems for the surrounding schools and and plans put in place to deal with these effects have been destroyed by Michael Gove. I'm speaking from memory which may be imperfect but making those two girls schools free has worsened the problem of having effectively boys state schools which the girls from the most disadvantaged and least aspirational schools attend. Meanwhile Gove has cancelled the BSF initiatives which were fundamental to addressing those dynamics which already existed in part when the schools were private schools. I'm sure you'll check that out and let me know if I'm wrong there and if I am I'll go back and research what the precise problems were.

Alternatively you could ask Stephen Twigg as he was at that meeting and listening to the same concerns being raised. It was the ATL regional AGM this year where people had some freedom to raise concerns from their LAs.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Wed, 12/09/2012 - 14:37

What the Girl’s Day School Trust is doing in Liverpool is causing huge problems for the surrounding schools...

Really? They're running comprehensive schools with intakes based on fair banding, aren't they?

In any case, one was established as long ago as 2007; the other in 2009. So these are both Labour government academies; not Gove ones.

As for BSF cancellation..... perhaps you missed the City Deal announced at the beginning of the year under which Liverpool is embarking on one of the most ambitious school building sprees in the country with, if I remember correctly, 12 new schools in the pipeline.

Basically, what you seem to be saying is that you attended a meeting organized by some trade union troublemakers, who spouted a load of bile about Michael Gove. You can't remember what the issues were and cannot know if any of them were valid. But what the heck - why let that get in the way of an incoherent rant?

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Wed, 12/09/2012 - 14:38

What the Girl’s Day School Trust is doing in Liverpool is causing huge problems for the surrounding schools...

Really? They're running comprehensive schools with intakes based on fair banding, aren't they?

In any case, one was established as long ago as 2007; the other in 2009. So these are both Labour government academies; not Gove ones.

As for BSF cancellation..... perhaps you missed the City Deal announced at the beginning of the year under which Liverpool is embarking on one of the most ambitious school building sprees in the country with, if I remember correctly, 12 new schools in the pipeline.

Basically, what you seem to be saying is that you attended a meeting organized by some trade union troublemakers, who spouted a load of bile about Michael Gove. You can't remember what the issues were and cannot know if any of them were valid. But what the heck - why let that get in the way of an incoherent rant?

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Wed, 12/09/2012 - 15:51

"Basically, what you seem to be saying is that you attended a meeting organized by some trade union troublemakers, who spouted a load of bile about Michael Gove. You can’t remember what the issues were and cannot know if any of them were valid. But what the heck – why let that get in the way of an incoherent rant?"

The ATM regional AGM with Stephen Twigg as guest speaker?
Some comments I put to you specifically so you could give your perspective which I welcome?
:-)
Ricky I'm genuinely glad to hear there is good stuff going on now and I welcome the news that there is a coherent way forward now. There was some mention of it being possible but people weren't convinced it would stick - with very good reason as they've been let down so often before.

Perhaps you could also reassure me about the concerns raised regarding the team which was responsible for hundreds of looked after children being cut from 17 to 3? I'm sure you're also aware of implications of such a change for education in the area? Again I'd be delighted to hear that attention is being paid to that issue?

Do you really think the ATL are bile spouting troublemakers Ricky? Is that because they finally went on strike after over 100 years of not striking when the government refused to move from its position that the pension pot was in crisis so pensions had to be slashed despite it actually being the case that we had a scheme not a pot which was not in crisis but would have been forced into crises by sudden rises in contributions which people could not afford. Yawn. Or was it the small group of people who toddled past the Tory party conference with 'fair pensions for all' banners.

You have really have no idea about union militancy at all do you Ricky?
Perhaps you should start at the beginning and learn about the history of the Thatcher reforms. This is a particularly easy read:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Taming-Trade-Unions-Governments-Employment/dp/03...

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 12/09/2012 - 16:20

Rebecca - The new Minister of State for Energy, John Hayes, who was until last week the Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, is an honorary member of the ATL.

Mr Hayes recently visited the States with representatives of teaching unions for an educational conference. He also praised the contribution made by unions to worker education: "Trade unions can play an invaluable and immeasurable role in improving skills in the workplace."

Odd, then, that this Conservative should be lumped with a group of bile spouting, trade union troublemakers.

http://www.conservatives.com/People/Members_of_Parliament/Hayes_John.aspx

http://www.unionlearn.org.uk/about/learn-4033-f0.cfm

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Wed, 12/09/2012 - 16:37

Thanks for that Janet.

Odd but sadly common at the moment.

I find it very distressing to see the paranoia and the catastrophic failure to understand the nature of the 1980s reforms evident in substantial parts of the Conservative party. It really shouldn't be part of Gove's thinking as I know Gibb at least has studied the essential elements of unions and democracy and how the ways in which unions were undemocratic have been more than robustly addressed to an extent which compromises their ability to be the important part of a healthy democracy they should be allowed to be.

But it's good to hear that John Hayes at least has some understanding of the real world.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Wed, 12/09/2012 - 17:23

.. Vice President of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) Hank Roberts (centre), addresses assembled Communist Party and trade union members on education, resistance to ConDem policies and strike action.

Hank Roberts, Junior Vice President of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) union criticised the government ....

"Many many people are convinced that this government is a pile of c**p, that the ruling class are completely and utterly wrong..."

Quoting Dirty Harry, he added: "Stop talking, start shooting. Keep shooting 'til they're all dead, then start talking."


http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/nicolas-niarchos/communists-trade-unions...

Workers Revolutionary Party: SCHOOLS PRIVATISATION MUST BE RESISTED says ATL President Hank Roberts
http://www.wrp.org.u

And this one's really priceless:

Brent delegate Hank Roberts said: "Does anyone here believe the government does not intend to privatise schools?

"We have to use every weapon in our arsenal. It includes strike action and direct action," Mr Roberts said.......

He called on delegates to use "all the weapons in our arsenal, including strike action and direct action, because they {the government} have closed down democratic opposition to the scheme.

"The comprehensive quality education system that our forebears fought so hard for is now under attack and we owe it to them rise to the challenge," Mr Roberts concluded, to storms of applause.


.....that was from the Morning Star 25th March 2008..... and the government the new ATL National President was then castigating with the same rhetoric now directed at Michael Gove was the lGordon Brown's Labour government, with Ed Balls as Ed Sec!


Yes, Janet..... very moderate.

Fiona Millar's picture
Wed, 12/09/2012 - 17:35

Ricky Tarr - could you tell us who you are? Are you a teacher, governor, parent? Do you in fact work for Michael Gove or the Conservative Party. Are you Toby Young in disguise? Do you really exist? Really - we are all fascinated.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Thu, 13/09/2012 - 09:06

“Many many people are convinced that this government is a pile of c**p, that the ruling class are completely and utterly wrong…”
Quoting Dirty Harry, he added: “Stop talking, start shooting. Keep shooting ’til they’re all dead, then start talking.”

I actually find this cathartic.

I suppose you think, Ricky, that people like me who used to post this kind of thing on the interenet:
https://www.ncetm.org.uk/community/thread/56000
became very angry due to our internal characteristics for which we should be condemned. I've noticed that you have a propensity to share Gove's mindset of desperately trying to discredit anybody who criticise his policies rather than actually engaging with the content of their criticisms or standing back to appreciate that this behaviour is unprecedented and to wonder why it might be happening.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 13/09/2012 - 08:11

Governor, yes. Parent, yes. Teacher - long ago, v. briefly, in the independent sector, but chose another career instead. I work for the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 13/09/2012 - 08:31

Fiona - RT's way of working is to scour the web for quotes made by the Workers' Revolutionary Party or Socialist Workers which are then cut-and-pasted (usually with no links). It doesn't matter if the quotes raise reasonable concerns (eg the undermining of comprehensive education). If the concern is uttered by one of the usual suspects then it must be wrong.

An example of RT's logic is above. An ATL leader is quoted by the Workers Revolutionary Party as saying that "Schools privatisation must be resisted" (link broken). Because he's been quoted by the WRP then he's got to be one of the bad guys (Gove's Trotskyists, "enemies of promise"). According to RT's logic, anyone quoted by or speaking to a left-wing organisation (especially one on the fringe) is suspect and their words are equally suspect.

So what will RT make of today's article in the Telegraph about the speech by Mary Bousted, head of ATL, at the TUC? In RT's logic that makes her suspect on two counts: being head of a union and speaking to the TUC. However, the Telegraph describes her as a "moderate" union leader who cautioned the TUC against backing a general strike. So, she's made a reasonable point but according to RT's logic this should be discounted because she's a trade unionist speaking to trade unionists.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9536880/TUC-Congress-roaring-li...

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 13/09/2012 - 09:05

Janet

Aren't you ignoring the link which has a picture of your ATL 'moderate' knowingly addressing a group of Communists. In the unlikely eventuality that Michael Gove ever does the moral & political equivalent - sharing a platform with a bunch of neo-Nazis - then I'll be equally censorious.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Thu, 13/09/2012 - 09:19

You do understand, Ricky, I'm sure that President of the ATL is an elected position.

Teachers have always joined the ATL because they are seriously non-militant and the ATL had never been on strike. And yet they've chosen Hank Roberts as their elected representative.

I think in the past there has a been an acceptance that governments are often ludicrously ignorant about education and damaging in their first couple of years. But this level of ignorance and damage and the fact that after two years in power they were still completely lost in their own hubris and ignorance is completely unprecedented. So you're seeing some extreme reactions from the people who can clearly see what's going on and the consequences of it.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 13/09/2012 - 09:47

Fiona - we now have RT thinking that someone's reasonable comments should be discounted because the person making them is highly paid.

What next? Someone's reasonable comments being rubbished because of their gender (women having smaller brains)? Or their supposed IQ? Or they wear red shoes (obviously a sign of being a Trot)? Or they once stood on a picket line?

That last point, according to RT's logic, would rule out any comments made by Gove - his remarks should be discounted because he was once a member of the National Union of Journalists and went on strike. However, I will not rule out Gove's ideas because of his past or his personality or his wages. I will contest them using authoritative evidence properly linked.

http://www.google.co.uk/imgres?imgurl=http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-image...

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 13/09/2012 - 10:24

Fiona - using RT's "tarnished by association" logic, the remarks of Gove should be considered to be wrong because a Tory MP took part in a Nazi-themed party. However, as I said above, I would rather attack his comments using evidence.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/olympics/london-2012/9434123/London-201...

Of course, there's always Gove's association with Murdoch... And even the Daily Mail reported that Gove had been attacked because of a possible conflict of interest between Gove's constituency party accepting money from shareholders of Domino's Pizza and his role as SoS (given that he's relaxed the rules on academies and the standard of school meals).

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2200465/Education-Secretary-Gove...

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 13/09/2012 - 11:35

Fiona - neither. And nothing to do with T. Young, either.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Thu, 13/09/2012 - 12:17

"Aren’t you ignoring the link which has a picture of your ATL ‘moderate’ knowingly addressing a group of Communists."

Ricky, as someone who is at ease talking to prisoners, people with serious illnesses, people in all sorts of minority groups, on the edge of mental collapse or beyond and so on and who wouldn't dream of not associating with anyone I'm a little startled by your view that if you talk to people who believe in collectivism that means you're not a credible person. It's fundamental to state education that you have to work with whoever is in front of you constructively and to do that you have to work with their families too. That's everyone Ricky - no matter what shade their skin, what brand their politics, what their history is, everyone. It's part of the culture of teaching.

You may hate particular groups of society. You would struggle to get in to teacher training if that was picked up under scrutiny during your assessment for a training place.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Thu, 13/09/2012 - 12:25

"the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy"

*giggles*

Are you trying to make something which is clearly and out of control huge meta-bubble of ignorance which has emerged from the fusion of the smaller bubbles of
- the personal immaturity and hubris of key individuals
- the right wing anarchic libertarian force within the Tory part
- the think tank hot-house of bright young things with no experience of anything and
- the Murdoch catalyst of politicians spending all their time talking to the Murdoch press rather than to people who actually understand the issues and having a direct line to create perceptions of truth through the media which are based on no foundations...
sound as if it has some line of intelligent thought behind it Ricky?

FJ Murphy's picture
Tue, 20/11/2012 - 21:54

You don't like what Ricky says, so you have to hurl abuse at him. Who are you? A teacher? No. Engage with the arguments, not the person.

FJ Murphy's picture
Tue, 20/11/2012 - 21:57

You don't like what Ricky says, so you have to hurl abuse at him. Who are you? A teacher? No. Engage with the arguments, not the person.
As for the ATL, I have been a member for more than 25 years but I shall not renew my membership, largely because of Hank Roberts extreme and outrageous comments.
And by the way, I am a teacher, in a state school and not a Tory, so you'll have to think of some other epithets to hurl at me.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Tue, 20/11/2012 - 22:32

Finbar can you tell me which extreme and outrageous comments you're concerned about?

I'm ATL too and I'm trying to separate the man from the myth (see the video below for a start).

One things which has improved this year is that the ATL are finally discussing Ofsted at a policy level - something they'd steadfastly not done over recent years. Yes, clearly, some of the level of insight is too naive but at least they've made a start talking at last...?

Fiona Millar's picture
Thu, 13/09/2012 - 10:33

You mean the Tory party or the right wing press- could you be more specific?

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 13/09/2012 - 09:22

As for Mary Bousted, I can well understand why she may feel too heavily 'invested' in the status quo to be gagging for a general strike, let alone a socialist revolution:

The top-earning education union leader continues to be Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, who received a salary of £105,198 plus £22,551 pension contributions.

http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6039350

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Thu, 13/09/2012 - 09:34

I've been reading Mary Bousted's article for years. She's and exceptionally capable commentator on education leading a union through exceptionally story seas in ludicrously stressful conditions. Mr Gove should be proud of the stand she took in pro-actively requesting negotiations with the government which led to pensions reductions to ensure not only that pensions were properly funding but also that they would continue to reduce in value to ensure there would never be a shortfall.

Why don't you contrast here qualifications for leadership in education with those of Michael Gove, who earns vastly more and has a pension in 40ths?

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Thu, 13/09/2012 - 09:35

articles not article

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 13/09/2012 - 10:03

Rebecca Hanson@
13/09/12 at 9:19 am

Oh come off it. Hank Roberts is not some spasm reaction to Michael Gove. Roberts has held elected office in ATL for more than a decade and has sat on the union's executive since 2002.

As cited above, Roberts used exactly the same rhetoric to denounce Gordon Brown's government as he does the coalition. Before the election, he told a CP interviewer that "irrespective of who is elected, we face our Rubicon", apparently threatening extra-Parliamentary action to oppose what he was honest enough to recognize as a consensus between Labour, Tories and LibDems in Parliament.

He is also on the steering committee of the Anti-Academies Alliance, despite the early warnings of the NASUWT's Mike Grant that this appeared to be an SWP front.

Roberts's long=term aim is to subsume the ATL within the NUT.

Looking at the state of the ATL today, Peter Smith must be turning in his grave.

http://communist-party.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&...

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Thu, 13/09/2012 - 13:37

The election of Hank Roberts to a substantial office in the ATL is a reaction to Michael Gove.

In the present climate people are needed who are used to being systematically attacked and discredited from all sides and surviving anyway to do their jobs.

Or do you still think that it's easy to speak out about reality Ricky? Do you have no idea what happens to people who do? Very few people can cope with it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UAhwWf1wJdg

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 13/09/2012 - 10:20

Janet @ 13/09/12 at 9:47 am

Fiona – we now have RT thinking that someone’s reasonable comments should be discounted because the person making them is highly paid.

I think you have misread or misundertood something there, Janet. I certainly don't disagree with Ms Bousted's opposition to a general strike.

Ben Taylor's picture
Thu, 13/09/2012 - 21:58

or a cartel run by the producers?

Get control of your offer and start behaving professionally

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