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A Farther Education

On a small island off the west coast of Ireland, three 13 year old boys are getting ready for the biggest challenge of their lives - going to secondary school.

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Documentary maker: Helena Gallagher

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Documentary maker: Nicoline Greer

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A Farther Education

This documentary is being broadcast as part of RTE's Back to School Week.

If you live on an island, secondary school means that you have to leave home. In this documentary we join three island boys whose school is not near their home. It's not even on their island and so to pursue their education they must leave their Island homes, their family and friends to attend secondary school at boarding houses on the mainland.

For decades, islanders on many of the islands off Ireland have had the same dilema - leaving home at 12 and 13 years to get a further education on the mainland, as many of the smaller Islands don’t have secondary schools. It’s the toughest thing an island child will ever have to do but it’s also very painful for the parents and islands left behind.

Inishturk Island is 9 miles off the west coat of Mayo, with a population of around 70. Getting there is a 50 minute ferry-ride in sometimes rough seas.

The island is 5km by 2.5km, with beautiful landscape and stunning views. It’s peaceful and you’re guaranteed a warm welcome by Islanders. It has a pub, development office, shop and post office.

On Inishturk, 7 students attend the local primary school but that is all about to change now as John Anthony Heanue, Patrick O’Toole and Christopher Heanue, all aged thirteen, leave their Island home to start secondary school on the mainland.

Producer/Presenter Helena Gallagher knows only too well what this is like. 29 years ago, when she was thirteen years old, she left her Island home on Arranmore Island in Co Donegal to attend boarding school on the mainland. “I remember to this day what it was like, I couldn’t wait for Friday to arrive so I could get back home to the Island, but Sunday would come around to quickly and you had to leave again, it was hard leaving home at such a young age”.

Helena charts the boys’ last weekend on the island spends time with their families as they get ready to embark on the biggest challenge of their lives. And for Christopher he’ll miss his beloved dog Tyson.

With a decline in the number of families returning to live on Inishturk Island there is also a concern for the future of this Island - will it survive into the future?

Helena Gallagher finds out the impact on the families left behind.

Brid Heanue’s (Christopher’s Mum)says, "It’s a bit step in his life and I suppose it’s a big step in my life to see him going.... it’s heart wrenching, it’s very hard.”

And Mary Heanue, Christopher’s granny says, “Christopher is ready to go but I don’t know if we are ready to let him go”

In this documentary, listeners get a glimpse of this big moment in an islander's life.

Produced and narrated by Helena Gallagher

Production Supervision by Nicoline Greer

'Documentary on One is the home of Irish radio documentaries and the largest library of documentary podcasts available anywhere in the world. We tell stories in sound, mostly Irish ones, and each documentary tells its own story'

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