Attendance in New Zealand schools 2014

Publication Details

The 2014 attendance survey used student attendance data from the week of 9-13 June 2014. The research investigates the relationships between absence and school level factors (e.g. school type, region, or decile) or student factors (e.g. gender, ethnicity, and year level of the student).

Author(s): Schooling Analysis Unit, Ministry of Education

Date Published: August 2015

Table of Contents

Executive summary

The Ministry monitors school attendance annually by means of a voluntary survey. The survey gives us some useful reference points – such as areas where there are higher rates of truancy – but it does not enable a complete analysis. Because it is based on only one week of the year, we cannot tell if there are any changes in attendance rates over the course of the year – or whether a school's absence rate is caused by a lot of students being absent a little, or a few students being absent a lot.

  • In 2014, all state and state integrated schools were invited to participate in the attendance survey.  The response rate was 75%, compared to 80% in 2013.
  • Rates of absence have increased in 2014 compared to 2013 due to an increase in the number of teaching periods where students were truant (up from 1.5% in 2013 to 1.8% in 2014) or absent for a reason that was explained but not justified (up from 1.1% in 2013 to 1.3% in 2014).
  • The national absence rate (both justified and unjustified absences) during the week of 9-13 June 2014 was 10.8%, or 79,000 students per day, with a margin of error of 0.7%. The 2014 national absence rate was significantly higher than the rate in 2012, but it was not significantly higher than in any other year.
  • The total unjustified absence rate, or truancy rate, was 4.6%.  This compares to 3.9% in 2013, 3.8% in 2012, and 4.0% in 2011.
  • The national frequent truant rate (students who were unjustifiably absent for three or more days in the survey week) was 1.3%.  This rate is higher than 2013 and 2012 (both 1.0%).  Frequent truancy was highest for students in year 13 (2.4%) and for Māori students (2.5%).

Introduction

Participating in education is fundamental to student achievement.  The Education Act 1989 requires that parents enrol their children at school and ensure they attend school whenever it is open for instruction unless there is a good reason for them to be absent. 

Every day a student is not at school is a day they are not learning.  Over time, patterns of non-attendance can place students at risk of poor achievement and early drop-out, thus compromising outcomes in life across a range of social and economic measures. 

The national absence rate

The 2014 attendance survey, which is a 'snapshot' of school attendance data from one week in Term 2 of 2014, indicates that the national absence rate has increased slightly since 2013. The proportion of justified absences (eg, illness) has remained unchanged, so the increase in the national rate is due to an increase in unjustified absences. 

Analysis by student factors

The rate of frequent truants provides the proportion of students who are truant (or who are unjustifiably absent from school) at least three times in the survey week. Students in higher year levels have a higher frequent truant rate than those in lower year levels. This aligns with the overall absence rate, which increases rapidly from year 8 to year 13.

Analysis on the basis of ethnicity showed the frequent truant rate was highest for Māori and Pasifika students, and both ethnicities had frequent truancy rates than in 2014 than 2013. In 2014, Māori and Pasifika students had more than twice the rate of unjustified absence compared with Asian and European/Pākehā students.

One of the Ministry of Education's Statement of Intent performance targets is to reduce the frequent truant rate of students in years 9 and 10.  In 2014 the frequent truant rate for year 9 and 10 Māori students was the highest since 2009.

Analysis by school factors

Secondary schools had a higher total absence rate than primary and intermediate schools.  This shows a similar pattern to previous years. They also had higher frequent truant rates.

Lower decile schools had higher frequent truant rates than high decile schools. Justified absences were similar across all deciles, although decile 1 had the lowest rate. Unjustified absence rates were higher across all deciles, especially decile 1. 

Looking across different regions, Northland and Gisborne had the greatest increase in frequent truancy and unjustified absence. The unjustified absence rates in  these areas were well above the 2014 national average.

As in previous years, the total absence rate was highest on Friday, with Tuesday the next-highest. The total unjustified absence rate was highest on Friday.

National Absence Rates

The national rate of frequent truants in 2014 was 1.3%. This means that an additional three students per thousand were unjustifiably absent for three or more days during the survey week compared to 2011, 2012 and 2013.

The national absence rate (both justified and unjustified absences) during the week of 9-13 June 2014 was 10.8%, with a margin of error of 0.7%. The 2014 national absence rate was significantly higher than the rate in 2012, but it was not significantly higher than in any other year. (10.1% in 2013, 9.6% in 2012, and 10.2% in 2011).

The total unjustified absence rate, or truancy rate was 4.6% (compared to 3.9% in 2013 and 3.8% in 2012).  This is made up of 2.9% unjustified absences, and 1.7% intermittent unjustified absences.  The justified absence rate is similar to previous years, at 6.2%.  See .

From the 2014 survey, we estimate that each day 79,000 students from state and state integrated schools were absent from school for all or part of a day during the survey week (compared to 73,500 students in 2013).  Of these, 21,500 students were unjustifiably absent from school for 120 minutes or more in 2014 (compared to 17,500 students in 2013). 

Table 1 : National Absence Rates (2004-2014)
Notes:
  1. In 2004 and 2006 data was collected using paper forms only.  The use of electronic data and paper forms started in 2009.  In this year only a representative sample of schools were invited to do the survey, and their absences were weighted to estimate absence rates at the national level.  From 2011 onwards all state and state integrated schools were invited to participate.
  2. The frequent truant rate was calculated at a national level from 2011.  Prior to 2011 it was only calculated for year 9 and 10 students.
Year1  Absence Rate (%) Frequent
Truant
Rate2
(%)
Absence Rate (%)
Unjustified Intermittent
Unjustified
Justified Total Total
Unjustified
2004 2.1 1.3 7.5 - 10.9 3.4
2006 2.3 1.8 7.4 - 11.5 4.1
2009 2.2 2.0 7.4 - 11.6 4.2
2011 2.3 1.7 6.2 1.0 10.2 4.0
2012 2.3 1.5 5.9 1.0 9.6 3.8
2013 2.4 1.5 6.2 1.0 10.1 3.9
2014 2.9 1.7 6.2 1.3 10.8 4.6

Reason for Absence

Attendance data from schools comes in the form of low-level codes used to classify reasons for student absences. Combinations of these codes are aggregated to daily codes (P, U, I and J) for all other analysis in this report.  This section looks at the distribution of the lower-level attendance codes.

Students were absent for 9.6% of all class time in 2014, compared to 9.1% in 2013.  The proportion of unjustified absent time increased from 3.1% to 3.6%, with increases in absences for no reason or trivial reasons (truant), and for explained but unjustified reasons.  The proportion of justified absent time was unchanged.

Table 2: Time absent by reason for absence (2013-2014)
Note:
  1. Time Absent is the sum of the durations of class periods over all students.  It is not comparable with the full-day summary.  Students present for part of a day may be classified as absent in the full-day summary.
Reason for Absence Percentage of Total Time
2013 2014
Unjustified Absences 3.1 3.6
No information provided – truant (or throw-away explanation) 1.5 1.8
Student is absent with an explained, but unjustified reason 1.1 1.3
Unknown reason 0.5 0.5
Justified Absences 6.0 6.0
Present 90.9 90.4

Analysis of Student Factors

Absence and Gender of Student and Current Year Level

Students in higher year levels have a higher frequent truant rate than those in lower year levels: 2.4% for year 13 students, compared to 1.3% for year 1 students.  Overall absence increases rapidly from year 8 to year 13 (see ). 

Absence rates for male and female students were similar.  In 2014, 1.3% of both females and males were frequently truant, while the total absence rate was 11.0% for females and 10.7% for males. 

Figure 1: Absence Rates by Gender and Current Year Level (2014)

Absence and Ethnicity

Table 3 shows the absence rates for students by ethnicity.  The frequent truant rate was highest for Māori (2.5%) and Pasifika (1.8%) students compared to European/Pākehā (0.8%) and Asian (0.6%) students.  Both Māori and Pasifika had higher rates of frequent truancy in 2014 than 2013.

Between 2013 and 2014, the total absence rates for students from all ethnic groups increased, except for MELAA.  In 2014, Māori and Pasifika students had more than twice the rate of unjustified absence compared with Asian and European/Pākehā students.

Table 3: Absence rates by ethnicity (2011-2014)
Notes:
  1. * MELAA was a new category in this survey from 2012.  It stands for Middle Eastern, Latin American and African which were previously included in 'Other'.
  2. ** Cannot interpret differences in the 'Other' ethnicity grouping as it includes students with unknown ethnic background.

Year

Ethnicity
Absence Rate (%) Frequent
Truant
Rate (%)
Unjustified Intermittent
Unjustified
Total
Unjustified
Justified Total
2011 European/Pakeha 1.5 1.4 2.9 6.2 9.2 0.6

Māori 4.0 2.5 6.5 6.9 13.4 1.8

Pasifika 3.4 2.2 5.5 5.8 11.4 1.4

Asian 1.2 1.4 2.5 4.3 6.8 0.5

Other** 2.2 2.0 4.2 8.7 12.9 0.8

All 2.3 1.7 4.0 6.2 10.2 1.0
2012 European/Pakeha 1.6 1.2 2.8 5.9 8.6 0.6

Māori 4.0 2.0 6.0 6.6 12.6 1.8

Pasifika 3.4 1.9 5.4 6.0 11.4 1.4

Asian 1.3 1.2 2.5 4.1 6.6 0.5

MELAA* 2.1 1.7 3.8 5.2 9.0 0.7

Other** 2.8 1.3 4.1 11.1 15.2 1.3

All 2.3 1.5 3.8 5.9 9.6 1.0
2013 European/Pakeha 1.6 1.2 2.8 6.4 9.1 0.6

Māori 4.2 2.0 6.2 6.9 13.0 1.9

Pasifika 3.7 2.0 5.7 5.8 11.5 1.5

Asian 1.3 1.2 2.6 4.5 7.0 0.6

MELAA* 2.4 1.8 4.1 5.9 10.0 1.1

Other** 2.0 1.1 3.1 8.5 11.6 1.0

All 2.4 1.5 3.9 6.2 10.1 1.0
2014 European/Pakeha 1.9 1.4 3.3 6.3 9.6 0.8

Māori 5.2 2.2 7.4 7.2 14.6 2.5

Pasifika 4.5 2.3 6.8 5.6 12.4 1.8

Asian 1.6 1.4 3.0 4.5 7.5 0.6

MELAA* 2.5 1.7 4.2 5.4 9.6 1.0

Other** 2.0 1.2 3.2 5.8 9.0 0.9

All 2.9 1.7 4.6 6.2 10.8 1.3


Improving attendance plays an important part in ensuring ongoing engagement in learning and achievement.  One of the Ministry of Education's Statement of Intent performance targets is to reduce the frequent truant rate of students in years 9 and 10. 

In 2014 the frequent truant rate for year 9 and 10 Māori students was 2.8%.  This rate was the highest since 2009, and 0.3% higher than in 2013 (see ). 

The 2014 frequent truant rate for year 9 and 10 Pasifika students increased from 1.4% in 2013 to 1.6% in 2014. Again, this was the highest rate since 2009.

The rates for Māori and Pasifika students were higher than the rates for non-Māori and non-Pasifika students (0.8% and 1.3%, respectively).

Figure 2: Frequent Truant Rate of Students in Years 9 and 10, by Ethnicity (2011-2014)

Analysis of School Factors

Absence and Type of School

Composite schools had the highest frequent truant rate in 2014 (2.3%), followed by year 9-15 secondary schools (1.7%). Year 7-15 secondary schools matched the national average rate of 1.3%. Primary schools had lower rates of frequent truancy: 1.1% for primary and contributing primary schools, and 1.0% for intermediate schools.

The total absence rates for primary, contributing and intermediate schools were similar at 8.6%, 8.4% and 8.5% respectively (). In secondary schools, the total absence rate was higher, at 12.1% for year 7-15 secondary schools and 15.0% for year 9-15 secondary schools. This shows a similar pattern to previous years.

The total unjustified absence rate was also higher in secondary schools (5.7% for year 7-15 secondary schools and 7.7% for year 9-15 secondary schools). This compares to 2.7%, 2.8% and 2.8% respectively for primary, contributing and intermediate schools.

Special schools had the lowest total unjustified rate of all school types at 1.2%. However, the justified absence rate at special schools was the highest at 11.4%.

Figure 3: Absence Type by School Type (2014)

Absence and School Decile

Low decile schools had higher rates of frequent truants when compared to high decile schools: 3.7% for decile 1 schools and 2.3% for decile 2 schools compared to 0.6% for decile 9 schools and 0.7% for decile 10 schools.

Justified absences were similar across all deciles, except for decile 6 which had a higher rate of 7.5% and decile 1 which had the lowest rate of 4.9%. Unjustified absence rates were higher than in 2013 for all deciles, especially decile 1 (9.5%). High decile schools had lower unjustified absence rates: 2.7% for decile 9 and 2.6% for decile 10.

Figure 4: Absence Type by School Decile (2014)

Absence Across Different Regions

Regional Council

shows absence rates by regional council.  Frequent truant rates increased in most regions between 2013 and 2014, especially Northland (2.1% to 3.4%) and Gisborne (1.8% to 3.1%).  West Coast was the only region with a decrease in frequent truancy, from 1.7% in 2013 to 1.1% in 2014.

In 2014, the total absence rate varied from 8.4% in Tasman to 16.7% in Gisborne.  The total unjustified absence rate also varied between regions, ranging from 3.0% in Tasman to 8.7% in the Northland region.  Northland and Gisborne had total unjustified absence rates well above the 2014 national average.

Table 4: Absence Rates by Regional Council (2012-2014)
Region Total Absence
Rate (%)
Total Unjustified Absence Rate (%) Frequent Truant
Rate (%)
2012 2013 2014 2012 2013 2014 2012 2013 2014
Northland 11.4 14.8 15.3 5.1 6.7 8.7 1.9 2.1 3.4
Auckland 8.9 9.8 10.0 3.5 3.8 4.7 1.0 1.0 1.3
Waikato 11.5 11.4 12.8 4.6 4.4 5.3 1.1 1.1 1.7
Bay of Plenty 10.6 10.5 12.9 4.4 4.4 5.8 1.1 1.2 1.5
Gisborne 12.7 12.4 16.7 7.3 6.4 8.6 2.1 1.8 3.1
Hawke's Bay 10.4 9.8 11.3 4.7 3.3 4.7 1.0 1.0 1.3
Taranaki 10.1 9.5 10.7 4.2 3.7 4.2 1.4 1.1 1.3
Manawatu Wanganui 9.2 8.5 9.5 2.9 2.8 3.3 0.7 0.8 1.0
Wellington 9.6 8.8 9.7 3.7 3.3 3.5 0.8 0.8 0.8
Tasman 8.3 8.3 8.4 2.4 2.4 3.0 1.0 0.9 1.0
Nelson 9.7 9.8 11.3 3.6 3.8 4.6 0.5 0.7 1.1
Marlborough 10.8 8.9 10.9 3.0 2.6 3.4 1.0 0.9 1.4
West Coast 10.3 9.6 10.1 4.3 4.9 4.3 1.3 1.7 1.1
Canterbury 9.4 10.3 10.2 3.5 3.9 3.4 1.0 0.8 0.9
Otago 8.3 11.0 9.5 2.5 3.3 3.1 0.7 0.9 0.9
Southland 8.8 9.2 11.2 3.1 3.1 4.5 0.8 0.8 0.9
National Average 9.6 10.1 10.8 3.8 3.9 4.6 1.0 1.0 1.3

Ministry of Education Regional Offices

Between 2013 and 2014, all MoE regions saw increases in frequent truant rates, and all but Canterbury and Otago/Southland had increased absence overall.  In 2014, Tai Tokerau had both the highest frequent truant rate (3.4%) and the highest total absence rate (15.3%).  Canterbury had a decrease in total unjustified absence between 2013 and 2014, due to fewer intermittent unjustified absences.

Table 5: Absence Rates by Ministry regional office (2013-2014)

Year

MoE Education Region
Absence Rate (%) Frequent
Truant
Rate (%)
Absence Rate (%)
Unjustified Intermittent
Unjustified
Justified Total  Total
Unjustified
2013 Tai Tokerau 4.2 2.5 8.1 2.1 14.8 6.7

Auckland 2.4 1.4 6.0 1.0 9.8 3.8

Waikato 3.0 1.3 7.1 1.1 11.4 4.3

Bay of Plenty/Rotorua/Taupo 3.1 1.4 6.1 1.2 10.6 4.5

Taranaki/Whanganui/Manawatu 1.9 1.1 5.7 0.9 8.8 3.1

Hawke's Bay/Gisborne 2.7 1.3 6.4 1.2 10.4 4.0

Wellington 1.8 1.5 5.5 0.8 8.8 3.4

Nelson/Marlborough/West Coast 1.9 1.5 5.8 0.9 9.2 3.4

Canterbury 1.7 2.2 6.4 0.8 10.3 3.9

Otago/ Southland 1.7 1.5 7.1 0.8 10.3 3.2

All 2.4 1.5 6.2 1.0 10.1 3.9
2014 Tai Tokerau 6.5 2.2 6.7 3.4 15.3 8.7

Auckland 3.0 1.7 5.3 1.3 10.0 4.7

Waikato 3.9 1.3 7.6 1.7 12.8 5.2

Bay of Plenty/Rotorua/Taupo 3.7 2.0 7.1 1.5 12.9 5.8

Taranaki/Whanganui/Manawatu 2.2 1.0 6.3 1.0 9.6 3.3

Hawke's Bay/Gisborne 3.6 1.9 6.9 1.7 12.4 5.5

Wellington 2.0 1.7 6.2 0.9 9.9 3.7

Nelson/Marlborough/West Coast 2.3 1.5 6.4 1.1 10.2 3.8

Canterbury 1.8 1.5 6.8 0.9 10.2 3.3

Otago/ Southland 1.8 1.8 6.5 0.9 10.1 3.6

All 2.9 1.7 6.2 1.3 10.8 4.6

Figure 5: Frequent Truant Rate of Students in Years 9 and 10, by Ministry of Education Region and Ethnicity (2014)

By ethnicity, year 9 and 10 Māori students had the highest frequent truant rates in most Ministry regions.  The Otago/Southland region had the lowest frequent truant rate for Māori and Pasifika students.

Between 2013 and 2014, the largest increase in the frequent truant rate for Māori was in Waikato (from 2.4% to 3.8%), and the biggest increase for Pasifika was in Canterbury (from 0.2% to 1.6%).

Analysis of Absences on Different Days of the Week

shows the absence rates by each day of the week. As in previous years, the total absence rate was highest on Friday, with 11.6% of students absent. The day with the next-highest absence rate was Tuesday (11.4%), ahead of Monday (11.1%). The total unjustified absence rate was highest on Friday at 5.6%. 

Table 6: Absence Rates by Day of the Week (2011-2014)

Year

Day

Roll
Absence Rate (%)
Unjustified Intermittent
Unjustified 
Justified Total Total
Unjustified




2011
Mon



623,924
2.4 1.6 6.6 10.6 4.0
Tue 1.7 1.5 5.8 9.0 3.2
Wed 1.9 1.8 5.9 9.6 3.7
Thu 2.1 1.7 5.8 9.6 3.8
Fri 3.1 1.9 7.0 12.0 5.0




2012
Mon



642,294
2.4 1.2 6.4 10.0 3.6
Tue 1.8 1.3 5.5 8.6 3.1
Wed 2.0 1.5 5.3 8.8 3.5
Thu 2.1 1.6 5.5 9.2 3.7
Fri 3.1 1.7 6.5 11.3 4.8




2013
Mon



611,553
2.6 1.4 6.9 10.9 4.0
Tue 1.9 1.3 5.8 9.0 3.2
Wed 2.0 1.5 5.6 9.1 3.5
Thu 2.1 1.4 5.6 9.1 3.5
Fri 3.2 1.8 6.8 11.8 5.0




2014
Mon



596,208
2.8 1.6 6.7 11.1 4.4
Tue 3.0 1.4 7.0 11.4 4.4
Wed 2.8 1.7 6.1 10.6 4.5
Thu 2.5 1.5 5.5 9.4 3.9
Fri 3.5 2.1 6.0 11.6 5.6

Aims and Methodology

The 2014 attendance survey used student attendance data from the week of 9-13 June 2014. The research investigates the relationships between absence and school level factors (e.g. school type, region, or decile) or student factors (e.g. gender, ethnicity, and year level of the student).

In 2013, 2012, 2011, 2006, 2004, 2002 and 1998, all state and state integrated schools in New Zealand were invited to participate in the attendance survey. In 2009, a representative sample of 768 schools was invited to participate.

Since 2009, two forms of data collection have been used. Schools that use a module in their Student Management Systems (SMS) to enter their attendance records electronically were asked to provide an extract from the electronic Attendance Register (eAR). Until 2013, schools that do not use eAR were invited to take part in the paper version of the survey. In 2014 the paper version was not used. Before 2009 all surveys used paper form data only.

The electronic files supplied by schools contain detailed attendance records. Each day's record was converted to a single daily attendance code. Schools recording absences on the paper form were required to make their own judgement as to whether a student was absent for all or part of a day, and whether that absence was justified based on the definitions and instructions supplied.

Definitions of Absence and Attendance

Absence and attendance were collected for each student for each day of the week. The year level, gender and ethnicity of the student were also collected. The rate for each absence type given below was calculated based on the total school rolls for the participating schools and related to an average (mean) daily absence for the week per 100 students. It should be noted that this does not tell us whether it was the same students that were absent for a number of days, or whether different students were absent each day.

Absences were classified into three main absence types; justified absences (J), unjustified absences (U), and intermittent unjustified absences (I).

Justified absences: Absences recorded in the register, and marked as having being satisfactorily explained. A school principal has to make a judgement as to which explanations they will accept. The basis for such judgements is a matter of school policy, and as such the balance of justified and unjustified absence may vary slightly from school to school. For the schools with eAR data, students who had attended less than 240 minutes of classes in a day but had no unjustified absences were counted as a justified absence.

Unjustified absences: Absences which are not explained, or not explained to the satisfaction of the school. For the schools with eAR data, students who attended less than 120 minutes of their classes and had at least one unjustified absence were counted as unjustified absence.

Intermittent unjustified absences: The student is absent for part of a morning (or afternoon) or part of a period without justification. For example, a student who arrives 15 minutes late to school without a reason, or with a reason that is not acceptable to the principal, would be recorded as an intermittent unjustified absence. For the schools with eAR data, students who attended classes for 120 minutes or more and had 2 or more unjustified absences were counted as an intermittent unjustified absence.

The three absences were then summarised into total unjustified absence (the sum of U and I), and overall absence (the sum of J, U and I).

The rate of frequent truants was also estimated. A student was classified as a frequent truant if they had three or more unjustified absences (U) during the survey week. The rate of frequent truants provides the proportion of students who are truant (or who are unjustifiably absent from school) at least three times in the survey week.

Response Rates

Of the 2,452 schools invited to participate in the survey, completed returns were received from 1,832 schools, a response rate of 75% (80% in 2013).  In total, the responding schools used in the survey had approximately 596,200 students on their rolls, equating to 81% of the student population in all state and state integrated schools on 1 July 2014.

Data Considerations

Time frame

The survey was carried out in the week of 9-13 June 2014, close to the middle of the second school term.  This week was the same week of term as the 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013 surveys.  By analysing data from a similar time of year, factors such as winter illness would have been at similar levels. 

Some schools and local area activities resulted in school closures during the 2014 survey week.  For schools that were closed or had data missing on days during the survey week, the missing data was replaced with alternative day/s from an adjacent week.  The corresponding day(s) from either the previous week or the week after were chosen at random. 

Comparisons with Previous Surveys

This section outlines some of the known issues with making comparisons between this survey and previous surveys of attendance in New Zealand state and state-integrated schools.

Prior to 2009, surveys were carried out in mid-August and early-September.  Due to feedback from schools, starting 2009, surveys were carried out in mid-June, when absences due to winter illnesses were expected to be lower.

The 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013 surveys used the same instructions as the 2004 and 2006 surveys.  However, in 2004 and 2006, data were collected using paper forms only.  The use of electronic data and paper survey started in 2009 where only a representative sample of schools were invited to do the survey and absences were weighted to estimate absence rates at a national level.  Due to the nature of the sample and the number of responses from schools, some comparisons against 2009 are not possible.

In 2014, paper forms were not used, and only schools with electronic attendance registers were able to participate in the survey.

In 2012 and 2013, Teen Parent Units were not included in the computation of national absence rates.  Instead, they were put together in a separate data set and made available for reporting, if required. 

Footnotes

  1. See the Attendance Code List for more information on these codes.
  2. Note: Year 13 includes students in years 13, 14 and 15.
  3. Please note that these figures are not age standardised.  Therefore, some of the differences between regions may be due to the different age distribution between regions (i.e. one region may have an older student population than another).

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