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While you might imagine the 21st century school run to be a straightforward and mundane journey parents make each day to take their children to and from school, the reality can be very different.Think pecking orders, bitchy looks and au pair envy. But if you are savvy enough you can beat the bullies and leave the Mummy Mafia laughing on the other side of their Botoxed faces.

What’s all the fuss about?

Surely we’re all in this together, right? Wrong. The school gate has become the hunting ground of uber-competitive women who thrive on tiger-parenting, bragging and catwalk fashion shows at 3pm. Think less hard-working, juggling mums dropping off their kids before heading to the office and more bored women who use the school run as an excuse to gossip and bitch. School gate survival will depend on how thick your skin is, how well you can play the game and having the ability to rise above ‘the clique’.

5 things to know about school run etiquette

  1. First impressions stick and you’ll be pigeon-holed within the first few days of the school gate run – fact.
  2. Always wear dark sunglasses as they cover a multitude of sins; late nights, no make-up, rolling eyes and exhaustion.
  3. Never wear heels; as well as being hard to run in they send out the message that you are hot footing it to the local Holiday Inn with Dapper Daddy for a day of 50 Shades.
  4. Smile, nicely, even when you are screaming ‘COW!’ inside.
  5. Get there as the bell rings to save hanging around and receiving scrutinising looks and the cold shoulder.

‘The clique’?

This is pretty easy as they will stand out like a sore thumb. ‘The clique’ think they rule the gates and will ensure you know your place. They have no conscience or tact so will make it obvious they are speaking about you by glancing over and going silent on your approach. When separated from the group, members may lower themselves to talk to you but the moment one of their kind is in sight you will go back to your rightful place – on the bottom of their shoe.

Whilst often top to toe in designer clothes at pick-up, ‘the clique’ rock up most mornings in gym gear with the intended message, ‘I’m going to my expensive gym darling’. Don’t be fooled, they’re only on their way to Westfields – as usual.

What do I need to be part of ‘the clique’?

At all costs, don’t be part of it, that’s if you can even get in.

Is it safe to be friends with anyone?

Yes, but take your time, stay in the shadows and work out who the diamonds in the gravel are.

Stay away from anyone whose first questions are where your husband works, what you drive and whether your child has a tutor. At the school gates you get to know much more about a person by the questions they ask than the answers they give.

Your real friends will be the ones who will collect your son when you are running late, won’t snoop in your child’s book-bag during a play date and will tell you when your skirt is tucked in your knickers before everyone sees.

Who is who?

Entourage Queen

As Queen Bee this mummy always rocks up with least two others because despite the bravado she secretly can’t bear to be alone. She heads up the PTA, vets anyone who wants to join, is married to a philandering investment banker and has a secret stash of valium in her Boden bag for darker moments.

Yummy Mummy

Immaculate make-up, skinny jeans, sky-high heels and a designer handbag makes Yummy Mummy stand out from the pack. Her days are filled with Pilates and personal training sessions, blow dries, lunches and shopping for mini-me clothes for her model status children.

Earth Mother

From her henna dyed hair, hessian tote and homework written on recycled paper, saving the planet is top of this mum’s agenda. She walks and cycles everywhere, runs breastfeeding support groups and frowns at the Kit Kats and Ribena given to energy-starved children at the end of the day.

Slob Mum

Whilst she’s too comfy to worry whether her sweats match her t-shirt, this mummy is always rushed, late, stressed and sneered upon by ‘the clique’ for bringing down the tone. Her hair is rarely brushed, let alone washed, you can tell what the baby had for breakfast as it is sitting on her shoulder and as for getting homework in on time, forget it.

Coffee Mummy

As well as the kids, a dog, and lunch boxes, this mummy always has a coffee in her hand and rumour is she has shares in Starbucks. High on caffeine and often glued to her iPhone, she is permanently on the go, often forgets parents evening but has a smile for everyone.

Alpha Mummy

This driven multi-tasker, views motherhood as a job she is going to master with the same dedication and research as her PHD. She is fiercely competitive, has read all the books, been to all the classes and will accept nothing less of her child than A-plus from the first day in reception.

Dapper Daddy

This is the token dad who is pounced upon by the sex-starved clique who are desperate to flirt and feel attractive again. He may look safe as he drives is Volvo and wears battered Levis but every now and again there will be whispered tales of drunken fumbles, suspected affairs and a spot of Friday night wife swapping.

What should one wear on the school catwalk / run?

Sad but true, getting your ‘look’ right for the gates can be make or break for parent friendships. Some people are vacuous enough to make judgment calls on looks alone (who knew?). Dress for you and your lifestyle as you don’t need to conform to fit in, after all, that’s what we try and teach our children, isn’t it.


Hire an Aston Martin cabriolet for the day (sod the expense) and turn up early to secure the prime parking spot, playing Lana Del Ray very LOUDLY, and wearing your best Audrey Hepburn headscarf and glasses.

Do say ‘I’m afraid that I’ve got a full time job in the voluntary sector, but of course anything I can do to help with . . .’

Don’t Say ‘Gimme that egg ‘n spoon. I’ve never lost a race in my life.’

Happy Bluffing!

Natalie Trice