do you ask for? why, what do I know?
Juvenal, Satire VII
opening of the first Scottish Parliament since 1707, in July 1999, highlighted
in the eyes of the public the distinct nature of many areas of the system
of public administration of Scotland. Of course, prior to devolution,
although ultimately answerable to Westminster, much of Scotlands
public affairs had long been administered from Edinburgh, most distinctively
the legal system and, the focus of this paper, the system of education.
In the latter quarter of the twentieth century, education became a highly
politicised issue. At an UK level, various political groups used education
as a tool and a policy vehicle for the furtherance of their respective
causes (Mc Vicar 1993; Ross 1986). This politicisation has had a number
of consequences for teachers throughout the UK. Scottish teachers have,
however, experienced the impact of policy, reform and change in ways that
are particular to the economic, social, political, historical and cultural
contexts of Scotland.
logo for the Scottish Parliament
paper examines the experiences of the Scottish teaching profession in
the last quarter of the twentieth century in the context of an initial
brief historical summary. It charts the implications of the ideological
agenda of the so-called New Right in the mid-1970s and the subsequent
accession of the Thatcher Government with the policy that followed in
the 1980s. The policies of the 1980s (principally fiscal restraint) led
to considerable discontent and industrial action by teachers in the years
1984-87. The educational reform of the late 1980s and early 1990s such
as the marketisation and decentralisation of administration,
but centralisation of the curriculum, were met with considerable resistance,
as were efforts to introduce various initiatives characteristic of the
The local government reform that followed in 1994 is considered, which
had significant implications, not least in the form of redundancies in
the subsequent years before the election of the Labour Government of Tony
Blair in May 1997. However, the political turmoil did not end there: a
year later the people of Scotland voted overwhelmingly for the creation
of a devolved Scottish Parliament with tax-altering powers. On the accession
of the coalition Labour/Liberal Democrat Executive in July 1999, which
was welcomed by the teaching unions, education policy became the sole
responsibility of the Executive. However, relations between the Government
and the teachers have been far from harmonious so far.
The paper concludes with an overview of the prospects for teachers in
Scotland under the devolved administration and considers the contribution
that Scotlands political environment has made to the experience
of the teachers.
In order to appreciate fully the circumstances of the reform and change
of education in recent decades it is necessary to first review the historical
background. Education was clearly a priority for the Scottish people and
with considerable efforts from the church, both Roman Catholic and Protestant,
a relatively coherent and advanced system developed from the Middle Ages
onwards quite independent of the influences of its neighbours, England.
There is evidence of substantive educational activity in Scotland as far
back as 563AD at the time of the arrival of St Columba and the introduction
of Christianity (Hunter, 1971). With the spread of Christianity came an
increase in educational provision; most monasteries became centres of
learning where the monks taught the scriptures and the ancient Celtic
and Greek languages as well as poetry, astronomy and even practical subjects
such as agriculture, trades and craft (Findlay 1973). The Church of Rome
maintained the educational momentum throughout the Middle Ages and by
the end of the fifteenth century, every major town in Scotland had a grammar
school. These were controlled by the Burgh rather than the church, although
the curriculum was still largely sacred and the teachers clergymen (Hunter,
The Protestant Reformation of the mid sixteenth century was a major milestone
in the development of education in Scotland. Although the Church of Rome
had made relatively large scale provision of education, Findlay explains
how the Reformation marked a new era (Findlay, 1973: 9):
1560 ... a situation had come about, through the intermediaries
of Elizabeth of England and the expulsion of French and Catholic
influences from Scotland, in which it was possible for the new Protestant
Church to set up a new system which included a strong and farsighted
emphasis on education.
1560, the reformer John Knox and his colleagues drafted the Book of Discipline
which provided a blueprint for what was considered to be 'the first truly
modern education system in all Europe' (Mackintosh, 1962: 28). It is therefore
interesting to note that although reform was facilitated by the authority
of England, England did not have such an advanced plan of its own at that
time. Although Knoxs plans never came fully to fruition, it is arguable
that the plans distinguishing characteristics its universality,
its welfare element, its compulsory nature and the system of progressive
grading are evident in most systems that exist to this day.
In the following two centuries, despite the severe poverty of most of
Scotlands inhabitants and with the help of the Church of Scotland
(the 'Kirk'), school provision continued to expand and literacy levels
were frequently amongst the highest in Europe (Kerr, 1962). However, Scotlands
economic troubles meant that in 1707 it was necessary to dissolve the
Edinburgh Parliament and abdicate all powers to London (Lynch, 1992).
Education continued to develop separately from England and was becoming
more and more secularised as time progressed and the curriculum and administration
of education at the sharp end became the responsibility of
professional teachers who were paid a modest salary by the local authorities
(Kerr 1962). By the time of the Enlightenment, Scottish education was
widely admired internationally (Bullough and Bullough, 1971), perhaps
prompting Voltaire to famously proclaim: 'We look to Scotland for all
our ideas of civilisation'.
The control of the Kirk was restated by the 1803 Education Act in attempt
to establish a coherent framework for educational provision, but it was
not until the far reaching Act of 1872 that this was achieved. Before
then however, another momentous event had occurred: in 1847, the oldest
teaching union in the world the EIS (Educational Institute Scotland)
was formed (Belford 1947).
The Education (Scotland) Act 1872 saw the establishment of a system of
compulsory and progressive education, initially administered by the London-based
Scotch (sic) Education Department and then, in 1882, by the Scottish Education
Department which was under the control of the newly formed Scottish Office
in Edinburgh. The 1872 Act only applied to elementary education, but in
1892 County Secondary Education Committees were established and the Education
(Scotland) Act 1908 consolidated their powers.
As education expanded and progressed into the twentieth century, the EIS
and other smaller unions began to play a greater role in both the development
of education and in influencing their members terms and conditions to
the extent that in 1918, national salary scales for teachers came into
operation (Belford, 1947). Local Government control of education was consolidated
by an Act of 1929, which saw statutory Education Committees established.
Nationwide central collective bargaining was introduced in 1939 with the
formation of the National Joint Council and this was consolidated under
the terms of the radical Education (Scotland) Act 1945 which was similar
in essence to the 1944 Butler Act in England and Wales (see
Barber, 1994). Teachers pay scales were reviewed and introduced
was an incremental spinal scale the Teviot
that was considerably more generous than its English/Welsh counterpart,
the Burnham scales. Also put into operation were more thorough
qualification and training arrangements that also went beyond those in
England and Wales (Mackintosh, 1962). The 1945 Act represented a considerable
milestone for teachers as it integrated teachers in to the Post-war
Consensus tripartite framework (Briault, 1976; McVicar, 1992; Kessler
& Bayliss, 1998). Teachers were officially partners in the administration
of education at what might be termed a strategic level and
the dynamics of this framework are discussed later in this paper.
For the subsequent two decades, education continued to feature in governmental
policy agendas, most notably the moves away from the two tier 11-plus
system to comprehensive schools, and a substantial rationalisation of
schools in rural areas of Scotland where many small village schools were
closed and the pupils transported to larger ones (Hunter, 1973). During
this time there was a discernible shift in the nature of trade unionism
in Scottish education. Whereas the original purpose of the unions was
as much advancement of the cause of education as representing their members
interests, there appears to have been a realisation that a shift towards
bona fide trade unionism was inevitable and in 1972, the EIS which has
always represented the vast majority of Scotlands teachers became
affiliated to the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC). This was followed
two years later with affiliation to the UK-wide TUC.
Militancy on the scale evident in other occupations such as mining and
in the automotive industry has never been a characteristic of Scottish
teachers. For several centuries the Scottish teacher has, with some justification,
been regarded as being invested with an inherent nobility and dedication
to his or her profession (Findlay 1977; Ross 1986). Relationships with
the employers and the Government had been characterised by co-operation
and a concern for the greater good. However, in the mid-1970s, the climate
began to change as Education came to the forefront of the political agenda.
It is to this phenomenon that the discussion now turns.Policy, Reform
and Conflict in the Modern Era: The Great Debate and the Rise of the New
With the rise to prominence of Margaret Thatcher and the New Right in
the 1970s came a new ideological agenda for education in the United Kingdom.
In the 1970s it was alleged that the educational system throughout the
UK was failing with falling standards and discipline. The Labour Prime
Minister James Callaghan launched what was termed the Great Debate
on education and the position of the various political groups became clear
(Johnson 1990). The critics in the centre and the left of the political
system declared that the education system only served the needs of the
dominant economic systems. The critics from the New Right believed the
opposite; that the education system was not geared towards the economy
enough (McVicar 1993). It was perceived that education had become too
child centred and based on personal development, rather than
producing a skilled workforce to meet the needs of industry (Robinson
McVicar insists that the New Right did not have a clear, coherent policy
agenda as regards education. They did, however, stand by their definition
of a number of critical problems that they believed inherent in the British
Education System (McVicar, 1993: 189) :
the allegedly falling standards of basic literacy and numeracy
o the creation of a culture which was hostile to the private sector
and wealth creation
o the abdication of responsibility by central government to the
LEAs and the teaching unions
o inefficiency and wastage of pubic resources
o in some LEAs and some schools, a curriculum which had been strongly
influenced by left-wing teachers
o dissatisfied parents whose common sense views on their
childrens education were denied a voice by the closed
ranks of the service providers
above points may have represented a rhetorical stance based on little
ideological substance, but they were the populist manifestation of the
neo-liberalist writings of economists such as Hayek and Butler. The agenda
suggested by this model had severe implications for industrial relations
in teaching. Perhaps most striking is the issue of the unions and local
government having too much power; this comes from the heart of New Right
ideology: anti-collectivism and its mistrust of public provision, especially
at local government level (Elcock, 1993). According to Neo-liberal thinking,
collectivism is not only seen as a hindrance to the operation of markets
and efficiency, but hampers the freedom of the individual to make decisions
(Hayek, 1944). The tripartite system of governing education which had
been established by the 1944 Act in England and the 1945 Act in Scotland
was seen to have created a corporatist and inflexible system of administration.
The bureaucracy of the LEAs and the collective self-interest of the teaching
unions were believed to be causing gross inefficiency, inflexibility and
were apparently not responsive to the needs of the consumers
of their product.
It was to be some years after the Thatcher Administration was elected
until much of the ideology was tenuously manifested in policy. The one
area that Thatcher and her then Education Secretary Sir Keith Joseph concentrated
on initially was that of the system functioning more efficiently
and spending being restrained. Keith Joseph was recognised as one of the
principal personalities in the New Right movement and although he did
not have direct responsibility for policy in Scotland, George Younger,
the Secretary of State for Scotland, took on his philosophy.
The 1980s onwards: policy, reform and dispute
The 1980s proved to be a turbulent decade for education in Scotland and
indeed the rest of the UK. One of the election pledges of Margaret Thatcher
had been to honour the findings of the Commission on Public Sector Pay
chaired by Professor Hugh Clegg (The Clegg Commission) that had been set
up by the previous Labour Government in 1979. The Commission reported
in April of 1980 and recommended pay rises of between 17% and 25% for
teachers in the UK. Thatcher reluctantly conceded but was determined not
to allow such extravagance to occur in the following years
One other significant development in industrial relations terms was the
establishment of a new Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee (SJNC) in
1982. This differed from the National Joint Council, which had been established
in 1945 (ACAS, 1980) and revised in 1974 due to local government reorganisation,
in that as well as including the two larger teaching unions on the negotiating
platform (the EIS and the SSTA), it introduced two further minority unions:
the Professional Association of Teachers (PAT) and the Scottish Division
of the NAS/UWT. The collective bargaining forum as it now appears is represented
in Figure 1.
of the interface occurs between COSLA and the Unions; traditionally, the
Government (previously the Scottish Office and now the Scottish Executive)
had been represented by two civil servants (assessors) who '[tended] not
to speak very much' (Ross, 1986: 151). However, it can be assumed that
at critical stages in the dialogue, the Government representatives and
possibly even the Scottish Minister for Education, intervened if dispute
arose or Government policies (most often public sector pay guidelines
(Humes, 1986)) were being compromised. At several points in the 1980s
and 1990s, Government did try to impose itself on the negotiating process
and the results are detailed below.
Following the implementation of the Clegg recommendations, Scottish teachers
pay was subsequently eroded in real terms over the preceding four years.
Morale in teaching diminished considerably as the Conservative fiscal
policy took effect. Resources were cut back and the teachers felt their
workload growing (Ross, 1986). In 1984 the teaching unions in Scotland
began a sustained campaign of industrial action. The principal unions
in Scotland the EIS and the Scottish Secondary Teachers Association
(SSTA) did not have a history of militancy but felt sufficiently antagonised
by the Governments hostility to take action in the form of a prolonged
series of one day strikes and proscribing extra-curricular supervision.
As Ross (1986), in his emotive but largely accurate account notes, the
teachers appreciated that their actions would be a detriment to the welfare
of their pupils but felt that ultimately, if successful, they would serve
the interests of the pupils. This view was appreciated by parents and
as the industrial action proceeded, the teachers gained the support of
the majority of parents and the Scottish press (Ross, 1986).
The action of the Scottish teachers was initiated at the conclusion of
the high profile miners strike of 1984/85 where the NUM had been
defeated by the determination of the Thatcher Government not to concede
to the Unions demands. However the Scottish teachers, unlike the
miners, were ultimately successful although it took until 1987 to reach
a satisfactory settlement. Throughout the dispute, the employers side
at the Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee (SJNC), the Convention of
Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) had shown a willingness to compromise
with the Unions but had been constrained by the insistence of the Scottish
Office that central government would not be prepared to help fund any
rise which was over their own public sector pay recommendations (Ross,
The Scottish dispute was to a great extent mirrored in England and Wales
where teachers also took part in a period of industrial action. However,
the events in England led to quite a different outcome. In 1986 Kenneth
Baker, then the Education Secretary, introduced the Teachers Pay and Conditions
Act (1986) which removed the rights of the teaching unions in England
and Wales to negotiate for pay, their pay being determined by a Government
appointed Pay Review Body. The Scottish unions maintained their collective
bargaining rights in full, although there were certain strings attached
with regard to curriculum reform and other workload issues (Johnstone,
The issue of power was one that the Conservatives were to address with
subsequent legislation and policy. As previously mentioned, the New Right
believed the unions and the Local Education Authorities (LEAs) were too
powerful; they therefore sought to redress that balance back in favour
of central government. The issue of power in this instance
is essentially one of who governs and who exerts most influence
in setting the policy and administrative agenda (Dahl 1961; Lukes 1976).
Under the terms of the Education (Scotland) Act 1945 it was intended that
education in Scotland should be administered by a partnership of central
government, local government and the teaching profession. The three parties
under this mechanism were expected to interface in a triangular model
see Figure 2 (Briault, 1976). It would be misleading to suggest,
however, that this triangle has at any time been equilateral,
with the balance of power undergoing frequent shifts (Humes, 1986).
the Conservatives had in opposition mooted radical ideas for education
such as privatisation and a voucher system, it was not until almost ten
years into their administration that they undertook anything that could
be perceived as radical (Rao, 1990). Firstly, Baker introduced the Education
Reform Act 1988 which was followed a year later by a similar Act for Scotland.
The principal objective of this series of legislation was to address the
power issue, seeking to remove influence from the teachers
and local government. Indeed another partner was brought into the equation.
During the course of the 1980s the Thatcher administration introduced
two especially controversial concepts to public administration: the market
As with many other areas of the public sector, the Conservative Government
looked to the private sector for models of management and approaches to
employee relations (Fredman & Morris, 1989; Beaumont, 1992; Flynn,
1993). In Scottish Education, this meant attempts to introduce quasi-Human
Resource Management (HRM) techniques such as Total Quality Management
(TQM) and Staff Development and Appraisal (SOED 1989), which were resisted
by the Unions (Johnstone, 1993).
This marketisation put parental choice on the educational
agenda, giving them more freedom to choose the school they wished their
child to attend. This had several implications, most notably that it theoretically
brought the parents into the decision making process see Figure
3. Also, schools were potentially transformed into quasi business units.
the functional hierarchy of the parties in the system of educational administration
Central Government which formulates policy and oversees and assesses
o Local Government which implements and interprets policy and administers
o The Teaching Profession which undertakes operations, as well as
attempting to influence policy
The Parents who, with common-sense views and rational
self-interest can influence the invisible hand of the
market, thus forcing schools to be efficient and to
raise standards as they compete for custom. This placed parents
in a considerable position of influence, primarily in economic terms
(as funding is allocated to schools approximately in accordance
with pupil numbers) and by implication, in terms of curriculum,
and employment practices
concept of the school as a business unit was enhanced further by the introduction
of Local Management of Schools (LMS), firstly in England and Wales, where
schools were given the option of applying to opt-out of LEA
control and receive funding direct from the Department of Education. This
effectively took local government out of the Briault equation and decentralised
educational administration (Johnson, 1991). The rhetoric suggested that
this would allow schools to be more efficient, responsive and flexible
and allow head teachers to spend money in accordance with local exigencies
(Downes, 1988). Approximately 1000 schools were to opt-out in England,
but when the policy was introduced to Scotland, only two very small schools
chose to go for grant-maintained status. Following the lack of enthusiasm
for opting out, Central Government in Scotland then implemented a policy
of Devolved School Management (DSM) (SOED, 1993) whereby each school,
although remaining under LEA control was given greater power over its
Scotland Street School, Glasgow
1974, Education in Scotland had been administered by nine large regional
and island authorities. The Conservatives complained that they were bureaucratic
and inflexible (Keating & Midwinter, 1993) and under the terms of
the Local Government, etc Reform Act (1994) sought to divide these 'monstrosities',
as Prime Minister John Major termed them, into smaller units. The Act
was potentially one of the most radical pieces of legislation to affect
Scottish Education and its employment practices for a number of reasons.
Firstly, the Act made no provision for collective bargaining, either at
national or local government level, as every such Act since 1945 had.
Secondly, the Act made no provision for local authorities to have a Director
of Education nor an education Committee on the Council, as had been the
case since 1929 (see above). This was clear evidence of the intention
of the Conservative Government to decentralise industrial relations thus
further weakening the position of the unions and local government.
The scenario that the schools and the teachers potentially faced was school-level
bargaining which, due to the small nature of a schools unit of resource
would be rather problematical, as well as the many other problems caused
by highly decentralised collective bargaining (see Fatchett, 1989). However,
when the Act came into force in 1996, the parties pragmatically defied
the policy agenda and maintained COSLA and the SJNC, and all of Scotlands
29 new local authorities appointed a Director of Education and formed
an Education Committee. This consensus did not mean an end to the teachers
concerns as reorganisation had led to a significant shortfall in budgets
and led to redundancies and spending cuts (EIS, 1996). Coupled with the
ongoing issues of workload and stress, there was a considerable degree
of discontent in industrial relations terms as the 1997 General Election
The Scottish Parliament and Scottish teachers
According to the work of Surridge and McCrone (1999), the victory of the
'Yes/Yes' campaign and the subsequent devolution of Scotland was not so
much an expression of 'Scottishness', Nationalism or Anti-Englishness,
but a genuine pragmatic move to improve public services in Scotland, including
education. Again, this perhaps illustrates the importance placed on education
by the people of Scotland. However, considering education as being important
and benevolence to the teaching profession are not necessarily automatically
connected. The UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has often blamed the 'forces
of conservatism' among teachers for the plight of UK education. However,
the establishment of the Scottish Parliament appears to have been welcomed
with some enthusiasm by both local government and the teaching unions
with the EIS in particular expressing approval (EIS, 1999). As the administration
of education in Scotland has since 1882 effectively been devolved,
it is unlikely that the landscape of industrial relations will be radically
altered in the short term; the actual channels of administration and theatres
of collective bargaining are likely to remain intact for the term of the
current Labour/Liberal Democrat coalition.By the late nineties, the Scottish
Education Minister Sam Galbraith had spoken publicly of his intention
to abolish the SJNC in the light of a recent pay dispute with the teaching
unions. The unions, however, had managed to block the Ministers
move, at least for the time being, by successfully lobbying for the establishment
of a Committee of Enquiry, the McCrone Committee (EIS, 1999a).
This move perhaps illustrates some of the benefits of the seat of democratic
decision making nearer to the base of administration. The Scottish teaching
unions appear to have been able to directly influence the political system
than they would have under the previous model (Brown, 1999). It has been
suggested that this could also be a result of the dynamics of the new
Scottish system, which allows pressure groups more access, and consultation
to the members and various committees. These members are in turn constantly
aware of the potentially fragile nature of the Proportional Representation
(PR) System and the delicate balance of power under the coalition (Brown,
In theory, when formulating policy, the Edinburgh Government with its
First Minister and Executive including the Scottish Minister for Education
and their Scottish Junior Ministers, should be able to operate and formulate
policy with lessened influence from the Westminster Government and Parliament.
For example since 2001, when the Barnett formula of public
expenditure was reviewed, the Edinburgh Government is not necessarily
obliged to adhere as closely to Westminster and may set public sector
pay guidelines and will have more freedom when addressing other administrative
and structural issues which could impact on industrial relations. Indeed,
commentators have recently suggested that not only has Westminsters
power been lessened, but that it will, through incremental progression
rather than radical departures, increasingly have less and less influence.
Policy north and south of the border, in terms of education and indeed
the rest of the fiscal sphere, shall diverge to the extent that independence
could be a logical progression (Brown et al, 1998). Indeed this is suggested
by these commentators to be an extension of the pragmatic agenda of the
Scottish public towards public services identified by Surridge and McCrone
(1999), with education at the forefront of their considerations.
Increased financial independence from Westminster may force central and
local government in Scotland to address profound financial realities.
The tax varying powers granted to the Scottish Parliament potentially
give it significantly greater influence in industrial relations matters:
as can be seen from a historical perspective, fiscal related matters (affecting
pay, conditions and resources) have perhaps been the most prominent in
industrial relations (in the post-war period at least). Hypothetically,
a situation could arise where the pay of Scottish teachers could fall
out of synchronisation with that of teachers in the rest of the UK. As
discussed above, in 1945 when National pay scales were consolidated, the
Scottish Teviot scale was considerably more generous than
its English and Welsh counterpart the Burnham scale, although
rates of pay have been brought into line over subsequent years. However,
a situation has now arisen where, depending on economic factors and exigencies,
pay settlements could be considerably different which could have
considerable political and labour market consequences.
Although industrial relations proper did not manifest in Scottish
education until well after the Industrial Revolution had made its impact
on many other trades and crafts, certain threads run through the employment
relationship of the teacher if it is viewed in historical perspective.
The first teachers were monks who taught out of a sense of religious duty.
They were succeeded by secular teachers who retained a strict sense of
religious and moral conviction. Post-reformation, the Calvinist disciples
of John Knox were keen to educate to democratise and (in their
eyes) free Scotland of Roman Catholic dogma. In subsequent centuries,
the teacher became a respected member of the community (although by no
means among the most affluent) and the importance of education grew into
the nineteenth century with the Industrial Revolution. The founding principles
of the EIS were as much borne out of a sense of social improvement as
with a collective effort to affect terms and conditions of employment
(Belford, 1947), which is generally recognised as the purpose of trade
unionism (Flanders, 1970). Into the twentieth century, the teacher was
found to be collaborating with the Government in developing an effective
system of universal education and the profession was again involved in
1945 with a prominent role in post-war reconstruction.
In 1984, Scottish teachers were moved to industrial action which
was not a decision which was taken lightly (Ross, 1986). The Conservatives
attempted to defeat the teachers as they had done the miners (although
not by such controversial and violent means). However, the teachers had
resolved to disrupt the education of their charges as little as possible.
Even to this day, despite the evolution and reform of education, the sense
of professionalism and duty among Scottish teachers appears to remain
strong (EIS, 1999). The unions espouse a firm commitment to the furtherance
of education and oppose policy and reform that they believe will be detrimental
to the education of their pupils. However, industrial relations in Scottish
education has its functional side which has been as susceptible to the
post 1979 new industrial relations as many of its other public
and private sector counterpart occupations.
The latest major piece of reform to impact on the education sector is
the devolution of Scotland. The shape of future developments is not an
obvious one. Union density in Scottish education remains relatively strong,
despite a drastic decline in membership levels in most other sectors since
1979. If, as expected, the seat of policy-making power becomes firmly
established in Edinburgh and distanced from Westminster, it is possible
that the unions, principally the EIS, will continue to exert a significant
influence in the sphere of education policy in general as well as in the
more specific arena of industrial relations. This state of affairs will
be enhanced by the expectation that the bargaining agenda will be an almost
exclusively Scottish one, with devolution having severed some of the Westminster
purse strings. Ultimately, public opinion in Scotland has historically
favoured the role that education and teachers have to play in society
and this should perhaps be at the forefront of the considerations of the
authorities when formulating their future agendas.
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