"There's no point putting a first choice you are far off target for. And only apply for ones you really want to go to. You don't have to use all your choices available on the form."
Jools: sorry, this is terrible, terrible advice.
It is really important that anyone starting out on schools admission studies the schools Admission Code and understands it. there are many myths flying around, like this advice from Jools. The Schools Admissions Code is law and it applies to all LAs in England.
1. Your list is a list of 'preferences'. They don't HAVE to give you a school on your list. You will only be offered a place where you fulfil the entry criteria.
2. List all your schools in your genuine order of preference. Every school will assess your application against their published entry criteria, and will tell the LA whether or not they can offer you a place. They do not prioritise applicants who have put them first, the schools do not know where on the list the applicant has placed them.
3. the LA looks at all the offers that the schools on your list has made, and pass on to you the offer from the school that is highest on your list of preferences. if you do not get a place in your highest school, you automatically get put on the waiting list for all schools higher up the list that the one you have been offered.
4. if none of the schools you have applied to can offer you a place you will be offered a place at any school, which has space after all the other allocations have been made. That is why it is important to continue listing preferences until you have one that you are certain you will get - because of a sibling rule or you live right on the doorstep, for example, even if you don't rate it much. Because if you don't list that, you might get offered something even less attractive, and further away.