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How to spot when a child needs support and what needs to be put in place

20/01/2021 @ 11:00 - 12:00 GMT

Learning Ladders are excited to host a webinar with Jenni Dellman, Head of Primary at the British School of Muscat.

Jenni shares her reflections on using Learning Ladders both for learning in school and during this period of remote and blended learning.

Join the webinar to hear about how the British School of Muscat:

  • Incorporates Learning Ladders into their ‘holistic journey’
  • Built a curriculum that is purposeful for their students, reflective of their pedagogy and is tailored to reflect the diverse range of nationalities
  • Engages with Learning Ladders as a High Performance Learning school
  • Utilises Gap Analysis tools to inform teaching and planning
  • Informs parents using Pupil Reports, sharing explicit learning goals using Ladders at Home (translatable in 100+ languages).

A copy of the webinar can be found below:


Webinar Transcription:

Jeni Dellman: Hello, everyone, and thank you very much for attending today. A little bit of history just before we start. I’m currently the head of primary at the British school Muscat and have been for the last almost two years. Prior to that, though, I was the assistant head for assessment and reporting, and that’s when my journey to Learning Ladders began. So, I am coming at this from starting at the grassroots and helping with the buildup. 

And obviously things are a little bit different now with everything that’s happening in the world. We went into lockdown on March the 13th and we reopened for Blended learning November the 1st. And I’m sure that some of you may still not even be in school. So, some of this may or may not be relevant. But I’ll give you a little bit as we go along. I think basically before I move on, I think the most important thing here is a disclaimer. This is our personal journey. All this is how we are using Learning Ladders. And as per anything, there is never a one size fits all. So, it could be a case of taking some of this, taking note of it. And it’s all contextual to your school.

So, when we first started looking at Learning Ladders for a number of reasons why we wanted to go down this route, and I’m actually not going to go into all of now because over the course of the last few months, in the next coming months, I know that Matt and the team are doing other seminars and webinars that will cover some of these and a little bit more depth. But from my perspective, if I look at the highlighted areas, those are kind of the ones that help us think about why we chose Learning Ladders in terms of being able to address those needs of the children, being able to look at those gaps that students may or may not have. 

Now, I think yesterday Matt ran a webinar which talked about parental engagement, but also talked a little bit about, you know, the uses of Learning Ladders and the most important bit being that it’s not a day to Dropbox. It’s not a place where you just put a lot of information and then you ignore it. And I think if that’s what it is, you’re going to lose your staff, you’re going to lose your parents, and it’s not going to have an impact on the children in any way at all. So, I’ve kind of listed here a number of the different ways that that we have been using Learning Ladders in a number of different ways that we incorporate it into what we like to call our holistic journey. So, it’s not a standalone it’s not a bolt on. It’s not something that you take separately. It builds into every aspect of what we’re doing.

So, if I think about it in terms of our steps and stages of where we’ve gone, step one was the set up. Now, it was referenced earlier already by Matt, but it’s a bespoke curriculum content. And for us, that was one of the biggest selling points. It meant that we’re British International School. We follow the national curriculum objectives, and we want to make sure that we’re preparing our children for progression both across the year groups, but also around the world. But at the same time, we need to make sure it was purposeful for us and it allowed us to follow the interests of how our pedagogy was, we do something called Discovery Learning, which looks a different way of delivering some areas of the curriculum. And also, we wanted to make sure that in a school, like many of yours, will be with a diverse range of nationalities, that we were able to tailor what we did to still meet those national curriculum objectives, but in a way that helped us progress with the children. So, the first thing we did, and it has taken years, I’m not going to lie. We started with their set of objectives that they pre put in so that you can use those. And over the course of many years, our subject coordinators and our Year group teams have met. They’ve looked at it that refined, and they’ve adapted. But at the moment we’ve got a curriculum that is based very heavily on the things that we cover and the areas that we need to make sure we’ve hit for the children. Once we have that in place. We then created what we’d like to call the internal consistency’s document, and I’m more than happy to share that with anybody who would like to see it. It basically boiled down to almost a one-page policy. Now, within our assessment policy and our teaching and learning policy and each individual subject area, Learning Ladders is referenced, but it did deserve its own little standards like standalone section that meant that teachers could go to it when they just had a few questions. So, within the internal consistencies, we basically focus on the frequency and a few explanations. So, the frequency of expectation, how regularly should our staff be looking at updating the objectives, the regular things that they’re doing on a day-by-day basis? But also, what is the time frame for completing the teacher judgements, for looking at that attainment holistically, for looking at the progress of the children? So those things are within the document. In addition to which the text. 

Now, I can’t see anybody’s faces, but if you do use Learning Ladders, one of the things that we found the most interesting was the use of the four-tick system, because with the best will in the world, everybody still was looking at those ticks and thinking of them in a very different way. So, we held a number of staff meetings. We talked together about what one tick should mean, what two ticks would mean three and then four. And so, by moderating together, by sharing our practice and we do have moderation meetings as well. Looking at the latest objectives that allowed us to create a document which, you know, while never perfect, is certainly more robust than it was at the start of this journey and training. You know, at the end, I’m going to talk about time and giving time to things. And it’s the most valuable resource we have, and especially at the moment in a world of covid, where many of us can’t get together in large groups and everything seems to be done in Zoom or Google meets. But those were the first two stages of our step of setting up system. And then we talked about that idea of adaptive planning, that idea of being a responsive teacher of looking at what’s being covered, of looking at what needs to be covered and making sure that we are undertaking all the objectives. And so, for us, we found it quite helpful in our medium-term planning. In addition to the work that we do on HPL, we also wanted to make sure that we listed those Learning Ladders targets so that we made sure we covered them all. So, we built into our planning as well. 

Now, this is where we come, I suppose, to the main part of this presentation about identifying the gaps, I love the Gap Analysis part of Learning Ladders, partly because it’s very colourful. Learning Ladders is very intuitive. It’s very easy to follow and it’s very easy to see things. And for visual learners, it’s perfect. And here we’ve been able to use the Gap Analysis within teams for individual and Cohort Gap Analysis. So, I’ve taken anonymised part from a media section of one year group. And you can see here that at the bottom there’s a whole block of red. And that was absolutely fine because at that particular point in the year, these children had not had those lessons and that exposure to those objectives. So as a teacher, when I’m planning and looking forward and making sure that my longer-term plans are in place, I will be looking at the Gap Analysis and going, right, what is missing, what have I not yet covered. And that allows us to make sure that we’ve got that that fuller picture. But at the same time, that individual analysis, that first look is very useful. If you look at the first column, you’ll see there’s a child whose twos pretty much all the way down, but then they have one or you’ll look at children who have a number of different ones, red, one being the exposure to it, some understanding, but no confidence in that area. And so, when you’re targeting children, when you’re looking at what you’re going to identify and when you’re talking to parents, you’re able to really drill down into those very key objectives that are very specific for each child. So, within a planned timetable, staff meeting sessions and so on, the plan is always having time built in to allow teams to get together and do that. And then we also plan those times for teams to work across groups. So, again, they can look at each other’s and see where they’re going. 

Now, pre covid, we also would have planning days for teams where the next year group team member or leader would come down and meet with them and again, they’d be able to talk about those things. Obviously, we’re a little bit in a different world at the moment, but that’s the further intention moving forward. And as a school, it’s you know, we’re a HPL school. It’s all about that high level of challenge and that high level of support. So, you’ll see here as well that there are some children who are green, who have mastered certain skills. And you want to look at those children as well, because it’s not just about finding those gaps for the children who struggle. It’s about making sure that those children are able to keep pushing so there’s no ceiling on what they can do. And so, we have what we call pupil progress meetings, and those are held firmly, and they held between the class teacher and the year leader during the first instance. And then the inclusion team, SEN and our language for learning department also join it. And we have two parts to this document. The first part is a tracking of the teacher judgements by Learning Ladders. 

And what you’ll see here is the colour coded because, you know, I love a colour. In the first term, you’ll see it’s black, for example and within there you take from your Learning Ladders the children who are working below age related towards, at or beyond Age-Related and you put them into the grid. And there’s not a great deal at that point you can do with that data beyond part of the conversation that happens. Now, Matt referenced this idea of it being a conversation, and I think he would agree with me that it isn’t the be all and end all and only thing you should be using, but it’s a great jumping off point, it’s a great first step that allows those dialogues. 

We also use G.L., we also use the Pass. And so, we take all of that information and we use the Learning Ladders to help build it. Now, over the course of the year, you’ll also see that the colours change and we look to see whether children have moved from one area to another. So, you’ll see that the children in red and the children who move over and the number of children, for example, here in red has increased, which must mean that some of the children who were working before having moved. OK, and that’s kind of the idea behind it. We’re continuously tracking. But we also asked teachers to highlight if anybody hasn’t made progress, but more importantly, has actually gone backwards in their teacher judgement because, again, that needs to start to dialogue. 

Now, this particular child, bless him, through no fault of his own, was incredibly ill and took two months off school. Now, of course, he wasn’t able to make progress in line with his peers. And so that was a dialogue. There was no judgement. There was no penalising anybody because your children aren’t working. But it allowed that conversation. 

And we then take that to make individualised responses so within our pupil progress data, every child is discussed, every child is talked about within a class because the danger I remember when I was first starting teaching and you had to write reports and you always found it easier to write the reports for the children who were struggling or for the children who were higher achievers. But for those children who just knuckled down and got on with it and were polite and everything else, sometimes you might have missed things. So, we look at it holistically and we make sure that each child is discussed. And then we write into the comment boxes, the actions that we’re taking, the interventions that we’re going to put into place, and the support that we’re offering. And there in response to the identified gaps that we’ve looked at or for the children who are working below or towards. And as you can see here, the demonstration is as well as using the suite of information as well. And then you want to look at it even more holistically, but for each individual. And so, what we do here is we take one child, and we look at them in terms of are they going to be reaching age related expectations by the end of the academic year? Are we expecting to see these children at the level that we hope they need to be in order to progress confidently to the next group and thrive? And if they are not expected to do that, then we need to have further conversations. We need to think about what it is that we as a school need to do to make sure those children are supported and able to continue to progress. And so, you’ll see here again that that happens. We have children who are currently maybe not age related, but they’re green here because we know they’re going to be age related at the level of progress which they’re currently making. So, it’s a number of different ways of taking that data and having conversations about it. On a on a side note also as well, one of the things and it’s just worth mentioning here is the subject leaders at the school. We do have subject leaders and part of their responsibility, again, is to look at the whole school attainment and the curriculum coverage. So, as well as identifying those gaps for your own children in your own class and also for identifying gaps for specific individuals as a school, we’re able to identify those gaps. 

We’re able to see if traditionally time, which in the in the past used to always be one of the last curriculum parts of a year group’s timetable was always left to the end and then with everything that happened, got scrunched down and it wasn’t necessarily taught. And do we need to reshuffle the units and how we teach? And so, each subject leader is able to look at it in terms of where the gaps are for their area. And it’s great we get all of that and then what do we do with the data? And so, we do a number of things and I’ve mentioned a few. We worked with the teachers and the TA’s and we work with the inclusion team to look at what we can do. But we also talk to the students and the parents because with the best well in the world you can do everything you want, and if the students and the parents aren’t engaged and on board, you are not going to get any further. And so pre-covid, there was a lot of student’s dialogue. 

And it looked a little bit like this. So, the children have maths targets, for example, in year three, which are linked to our Learning Ladders objectives. And so, what would happen is each child would have their own placemat, their own card, which had those objectives on it. And throughout the year, they would have conversations with their teachers about where they were at, about what they were doing. Depending on the age of the children, they’d be asked to self-assess themselves. Where do they think they are? What do they think they need to work on next? And they were able to start articulating, using the Ladders at Home objective language. And I think that’s very important as well, because if you’re looking at this holistic view and it’s not an add on, everybody needs to be using the same language. Everybody needs to know what we’re doing. So, the children had these cards that they were using. At the moment, obviously, we are back on a blended model, but we have restrictions on what can be on tables and everything else. So, the children have conversations about their objectives with the teachers, but they don’t yet have these. 

And that leads me to the parental engagement. I talked about those cards pre covid. We had open afternoons every time the parents would come into school and they would sit with their child. They wouldn’t sit with the teacher; they’d sit with their child and the and the child would go through all the different things that they were doing in class that share their books and walk around the classroom. They point to the things they done, but they also had these target cards and they’d be able to tell their mums and dads what they were currently working on, what they were going to work on next, what they were very proud of. And we balanced the use of the Learning Ladders words with the work that we do on High-Performance, learning on our values and attitudes. We also have parent focused meetings, there are little different, and we’ve developed them over the last few years and every week for parents from a class have 15-minute appointments now during Google meets. So, we’re allowed to have that a little bit longer conversation with the parents and we share those targets with them. We share the target paths with them in the past. Now we just share the targets and we let them know where their children are in terms of the objectives that we are currently covering and what it is they need to do for their next steps. 

And again, within the reports, our teacher judgements are echoed in the reports. We were looking with Matt and his team at moving to using the Learning Ladders reports. And then unfortunately, we did go into full lockdown. So, I know that is something we’re still interested in and learning more about, but at this point, we were not quite ready for it. And then the final thing with parents is the Ladders at Home. So, we tell our parents what it is that our children may be struggling with or their children. And we may say to them that they’re really having a hard time with fronted that verbals. And if your schools are like ours, we have a lot of parents who may not have gone through the national curriculum, the British or English curriculum. They may not understand the way that we do addition or subtraction. They may not have had the words to convey because there are so many different changes working internationally. So, for me and I know that this is a completely separate webinar topic, but Ladders at Home has been fabulous, particularly during this period of covid because the parents are able to go on to Ladders at Home. We’re going to say to them whatever area is and if a parent feels that they would like to support at home, then they at least know where to look. We do make it very clear that we are still the teachers, and it is still what we do to teach the children. And there isn’t a level of expectation. 

One of the things we found during covid is parents’ shame, I think would be the nicest way to say that guilt. The parents feel they’re working. They have 100 other jobs to do, and they want nothing more than to help their children. And sometimes they may not have the time to do that. And so, it’s part of our job to work with those parents and let them know that that’s OK, too. And we do not make any judgements about what you can and can’t do at home. But if you do want to, here’s one way that you can do it as well. And then I guess this links, therefore, to the lock down changes, you know, the fact that on March the 12th we went into lockdown and everybody was then online learning. And when we first started, we were using Google suites. We were doing preprepared videos. We were talking about things. We were sharing resources. We’ve since moved towards like lessons. But in the early days, the parents would have a video. It would have an explanation of what they were doing. The teachers would be showing them and talking. But at the same time, there was still that level of confusion in some ways because they’re not teachers and they’re suddenly in the home in a classroom at home. So, we did a couple more seminars or webinars for the parents where we shared how they could use Learning Ladders. We showed them the different tools that they had, the way that it would give them advice on what they could do. And again, with our school, we also spoke a lot about the fact that it could translate into multiple languages, because, again, we have we have parents from many, many different nationalities. And I think that gave some parents a great deal more confidence to talk to us about what their children were doing to make sure that they were able to say, well, I’m not sure about this or what do we do? And it was that individualised, personalised conversation that led to us helping the children to sort of like fill those gaps and to make that progress. 

And I think if we talk about moving forward, it’s different now. We’ve got some children in school and some not in school. And we need to think about what we could do with the students to make sure that they were engaged in their learning and still having conversations about what they needed to do. So, although we were talking about it in class, we’ve now started to think about how they can reflect when they’re working online. We use Jamboard and Google Docs. It allows them to think about what they’ve done and what they’ve learnt and what they need to do next. So that level of ownership, we are now looking in the coming months to see if we can run some virtual site, open afternoons for the for the children to share what they’re doing. And then for the staff, it’s the idea of having time and being able to review because a lot has changed, and we are still using ladders and we are still using it very effectively and we are still making sure that we cover the objectives. 

But we do need to give people time because obviously at the moment we’re all going through it in a very different way. When covid started and the lockdown happened, the biggest concern from the parents on, the biggest concern from the staff was how on earth were we going to track what the children were doing? How on earth were we going to make sure as teachers that our duty of care for the children was to make sure that we educated them, but that we cared about them for their pastoral needs, and we made sure that they were able to be looked after, spoken to and make that progress. And so, as a team, we took the KPI’s from the Learning Ladders and we took those and made those are like our core objectives and said, OK, we are not necessarily going to guarantee that we can hit every single objective, but what we can do is make sure that we cover all of the KPIs so that we’re not disadvantaging the children when they move to the next year. And we created a series of rubrics, so teachers were updating them. So, the next year group would know what had been covered and what they needed to go back and fill, as well as using the Gap Analysis on Learning Ladders. And I think I’ve kind of raced through that. But I will stop. At that point and see if Matt needs to step in. 

Matt: Thank you, Jenny. That was really, really useful. Let me share, you touched on a few points there. If anyone has any questions to do to put them in the queue and I’ve got a couple already but let me just share my screen and actually show people a couple of things that you were talking about. 

So, you mentioned. The parents also quite a few times, just in terms of what that looks like for people, so this this is the parent portal that you’ll see if you’re a student or a parent accessing it remotely. And what it will do is pulling all of the objectives for every individual child that they’re working on at any moment in time. So, it’s totally individualised to them. You can go through. You can have a look at portfolios of their work. There’s obviously remote learning tasks and all sorts in here. But what Jenny was talking about, as well as these supporting articles that we’ve already created, so these are in the system. You don’t have to do anything. They exist already there for the whole reading, writing, maths, curriculum. And it goes through and it explains to parents exactly how to support. So, once you have identified those needs and you share that with parents and then this is the best that you can identify and you can share in multiple languages, so you can change this, we have over 100 different languages in here that you can just change at the click of a button just to pick up on that and actually show people that is what that looks like. 

The other thing that you touched upon let me go into the system, I think is a really interesting moment. We’ve seen this time and time again is identifying parts of the curriculum as KPIs. So, this idea that in an ideal world, teachers would obviously go through the whole curriculum, as they would do normally. But there are some bits which are the really sort of critical areas. So, again, if you’re a member already, then the way you would do that is go into the creation zone, find the subject you’re interested in. So, let’s say we’re interested in this area here, go into the edit function. And then when you scroll down to any of the particular objectives, you can add in useful resources, teaching those descriptions, bringing together policies and stuff. But you can also identify them as KPIs in here. And that will then filter through the system and identify them for staff. So, I won’t do that on this particular example, but that’s what that’s all about. 

And you mentioned pupil reports and all the pupil reports that like this is a PDF version. But there’s a there’s a digital version as well. You can choose whichever one you want. So, this is an automated thing that the system will do and share with parents remotely, at the end of term, at the end of the year, exactly what is going on in a more formal sense. So, you have the ongoing dialogue in the parent platform and then you have the opportunity for this sort of formal sense. 

So, I just picked up on a couple of areas there that I thought I’d have given. I’ve got the demo versions to hand out I’ll share there. So that was really interesting, really useful.  One thing that’s come through on the on the already as a question is, you mentioned obviously set up with this and bespoke and lots of different options and stuff. How the question that’s come in is given there are so many options, and it is possible to do bespoke, what’s the support like giddyap to get to do this on your own or how does that work? 

Jenni: I am I’m not saying that just because Matt is listening. But, you know, I have to say that I one of the reasons that we particularly like Learning Ladders is the level of support that you get. So far, that has not been a time that we haven’t written to them with some drastic major help email or please fix this or we would like this or whatever. And they and they haven’t responded. And most of the time, you know, they are very much a listening team. So, we do get a lot of support in terms of the practicalities of you within a staff and the admin. I think if you were looking at this as a brand-new set up, I do recommend taking one of the set sections, either the national curriculum model, the Hilting bury one, and using that, even if the way we did it was we started with the Hilton bury and we ran it only for English and maths for the first year and we didn’t share it with the parents. Now, it may be that you want to go full steam ahead and you have the capacity within your teams. But what we then did in the following year was we shared with our staff the national curriculum documents and the Hiltingbury documents and together they built and adapted. And it is a very quick once you’ve got it on a document, a Google doc or whatever else. It is a very quick copy it into the box, copy it into the box, press, save press, publish. It’s not massively onerous, but there is an element of admin to it which will take you a little bit of time in the very first set up. And what I do like about it is then you can still edit, and you can still add to it and you can still change and move as you need. And so, every year, not going to lie. Matt will agree with this. Every year we refine and adapt. We do it at the end of an academic year to ensure that all our ticks and all are so Gap Analysis is consistent across all of them. 

Matt: Yeah, and that’s a comprehensive answer. Thank you. I won’t tell the team that you think they’re great because they’ll probably just ask for more money. But yes, I think in terms of how it works, all the curriculum frameworks within the system already, so you can take it off the shelf and a lot of schools will do that, or you can customise it in any way you like. And that process is very easy. But the critical thing about it, again, is what Jenny’s touched on here is this. This should be a living document. There should be something the staff are using day in, day out, getting the information out of it, as well as making the assessments and sharing it and using feature analysis for your actual curriculum is going to change and improve and evolve as you go through it as well. So, you can change and adapt that either to individual circumstances, but don’t a long-term school improvement plan as well. 

OK, and one thing that we get asked about quite a lot, so I was just going to touch on very, very briefly is obviously when people talk about gaps in learning, they look about data stuff and we do separate webinars on data. So, I won’t go into too much detail. But the key thing to get accurate data to do any of this kind of stuff is, is three kind of areas. You need obviously the curriculum digitally to reflect what you’re actually teaching in class. We talked about it time and time again to make sure your system is flexible enough. To do that, you need your assessment policy to be reflected in your system. So, again, make sure your system is done and that set up. But you also need to make all the calculations behind the scenes are set up to the reality of how you teach. So, if you’re teaching a mastery approach, if you’re teaching a thematic approach, if because of local circumstances you have factors which mean one particular term, you can’t get quite so much taught as you might do in different ways. If you’re adapting your pacing because of coronavirus, all of that kind of stuff needs to feed into the system. So, you get the accurate data. And again, if that’s an area of interest, we have separate webinars on that. But do make sure you do that, because if you’re not getting into that level, then you won’t get the sort of specific information any sort of stole my thunder here. 

We talk about Gap Analysis as being a really popular. That’s obviously great. And then the cohort comparison is a relatively new one but is something that a lot of schools are looking at the moment. And if you’re worried about not having a lot of recent data that you can make inferences on or use for your planning for the current cohort, looking at multiple cohorts going through a curriculum is a really good way of identifying patterns in learning. So, some time as an example, actually, do we see in terms of our data that we have a consistent challenge with the peer group in a particular part of the curriculum? And what can we do to address that? Which is because you’ve got last year’s data missing. If you’ve got the prior two or three years of data, as long as you can analyse it in a sensible way, it’s a really good way of red flagging, like the issues that you would have had anyway. You’re almost certainly going to have now. So that whole data, if you’re interested in that, we do. We do other webinars on this. And you mentioned GL data. I don’t think you may be missing this, Jenny, but this is new. This is going to go live in the next few days so we can sort this out for you. This is a whole sort of new dashboard approach to all the GL data. So, if you use that in your schools, then then obviously we can enable that from your system from the end of next week. 

And then there’s the contact details. What I think I’ll do now is just sort of leave a bit of space because we aim for half an hour. We’re already ten minutes over the beginning. I’ve ever met or spoken with a webinar where we stick to the time. So, I apologise for that. Thank you for sticking with us. Everybody knows that nobody’s left that to gain a few people at the end. So, if you have any questions, then follow then fire them through and we’ll answer them. Now, if you think of them afterwards, then get in touch with the team and we’ll do it. If you’re on Twitter, then feel free to tweet us and I’m sure we can have a discussion on Twitter. Jenni, I love that you put your hand up. 

Jenni: I’m used to primary school. The other thing I was going to say is in the past, when I first started Learning Ladders, Matt put me in touch with a school in Dubai and I spent a lot of time talking to that person about how they’ve set it up. So, in public and witnessed, I’m more than happy outside of this webinar if there is anybody who is thinking of setting it up or has anything or even just building a network of people in a similar situation, I’m more than happy to start dialogues outside of here as well. And I’m sure Matt is happy to pass on information. 

Matt: Yeah, thank you, that’s really kind, Jenni. And we definitely will. Yeah, I mean, one of the great things is we do have some fantastic schools who are brilliant at sharing and sharing best practice and CPD stuff like this. So, all right. I think that was the main question. The other ones I know that we answered as we went through, I picked up in a couple of people, asked to just show some of the things that we were talking about. So, I’ve done that. So let me bring this to a close. Jenny, thank you for taking the time out of what I know is very, very busy time for you and everybody else and enjoy the rest of the evening. Everyone else, if there’s anything else that that can be useful then do get in touch. But we’ll send a copy of the presentation and everything to you afterwards, so thanks Jenni and thank you very much, everybody. 


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